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Stylish vs. The Baby Won't Ruin It

Three years ago when we bought our house, we were faced with a disturbing fact. Our college-era furniture was not a good look inside our brand-new, shiny home. So began a year of pawning off the couches on siblings and selling futons on Craigslist. And because, at the time, we were those fabulous creatures known as DINKs (Double Income, No Kids!), our only concern about new furniture was making sure it wouldn't scratch our Brazilian cherry floors.

During a hunt for the perfect end table, my husband suggested we buy a coffee table to match. There was nothing wrong with the coffee table we had, other than the fact that we'd suddenly decided we didn't like the color anymore. Going along with Phillip's idea (he was excited about furniture!) we hauled home the biggest, clunkiest coffee table you've ever seen.

I suppose in the right house, it'd be lovely. It's a very pretty espresso brown with silver knobs on the drawers and a glittering glass top. But it's always been a little too big for our small living room, too tall for eating dinner in front of the television, and, now that we have a mobile one-year-old, NOT A WISE PURCHASE AT ALL.

The glass is scratched and constantly smeared with crumbs or milk. Not five minutes after I wipe it down with glass cleaner, it's covered in tiny hand prints. The shelf underneath the glass is nice and dusty because who has time to dust when she's sweeping the floor under the high chair three times a day? We no longer use the drawers because someone knows how to open them. We no longer PUT anything on our coffee table because someone can reach everything. It's not even that nice looking anymore, now that we've put foam rubber guards all along the edges.

So this weekend my husband is going to borrow my sister's SUV and pick up our new coffee table, a leather ottoman with a top that flips upside down into a tray. We saw this ottoman in a Sunday paper ad and thought: now THAT is compatible with babies. Soft, nothing to yank or pull, nothing to open, no sharp corners, no paint or finish to ruin with just-erupted front teeth. Our old coffee table, for which we paid quite a lot of money not terribly long ago, will be carted off to a recent college grad's apartment.

If I'd thought about what a one-year-old can do to your nicely appointed living room, I might have made some different choices. A stain-resistant fabric on the couch, for example, and in a print that hides spots. We would never have put the electronic equipment on the bottom shelf. We wouldn't have bought the bookshelves with the floor-level display shelf. And it's funny to me how long I tried to keep things like candles and candy dishes on our coffee table. The girl who neurotically raced around her house throwing clutter into closets before guests came over now just shows them the way around the mounds of toys and pots and pans yanked out of the kitchen cupboards.

Our standards, they have changed.

I recently visited a friend with a new baby and a new house. There was a low ledge around her fireplace where she'd positioned wedding photos and flowers. "Oh dear," I thought to myself. "THAT won't last long."

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