I remember those days before I had kids, when I was working around the clock as a lawyer in New York. Back in those days, my sleep deprivation was due to big corporations rather than small people. (I will note, however, that cleaning up other people’s crap, whether metaphorical or literal, has remained a constant in every job I have ever held.)
So I was walking to the subway after a blissful two hours of sleep, ready to go back to the job for which all those fancy law school classes in international human rights had prepared me (i.e. “highlighting the initials ‘AC-1’ in 74 boxes worth of materials”).
I was waiting at a light because I didn’t trust my sleep-deprived reflexes to get me to the other side of the road in time. A big, wheelbarrow-ish stroller came barreling toward me from across the street, bearing little twins with juice boxes. Had I been feeling more human, I might have stepped aside like a normal person, allowing the mother/caregiver to get the big stroller up on the curb easily.
But no. I was unhappy and therefore the rest of the world should be too. So there. So I didn’t move, and I let this mom get a hernia struggling with her huge load to get the stroller up on the sidewalk. Ta da!
Yes, dear reader, at that particular moment of time, I was a total bitch. Years later, as I struggled with my own fidgeting children on buses and my own strollers weighed down with child and groceries on rainy streets, I would think back to that moment and think, “Wow – I totally didn’t get it.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t comprehend what was going through a mother’s head, or that she would need more space on the sidewalk or perhaps even a hand. After all, I was an English major–empathy was supposed to be a strength of mine. No, it was that I didn’t want to think about it. It was far easier to see mothers as another bedraggled species from me, because the idea that I would one day be one of them was, while appealing on an abstract level, downright unpleasant on the level of uncombed-hair, frazzled actuality.
With the advent of the Internet, gratuitous bitchiness need not take place only within the confines of your own social-convention-trammeled brain. Now, you can share your rudeness with thousands. Take two women who have no children, add a bunch of photos of kids who look like they are between the ages of 5 and 8 in strollers, and there you have the perfect Internet-mommying storm: Too Big For Stroller.
“There’s something hilarious and deeply grating about a child who can walk– and, for that matter, do his multiplication tables — being chauffeured via Bugaboo,” Adele Melander-Dayton writes in Salon.
It hits so many cultural hot buttons at once: a sense that we’re overindulging a younger generation, the eyeroll-inducing eccentricities of parenting culture, an American tendency to take the escalator rather than the stairs. Maybe fellow parents see kids like these and feel sympathy. As someone without kids, I’m baffled and irritated — and I was a nanny for two years.
But the fact of the matter is, taking a picture of a 7 year old at Disney being pushed around in a stroller is not really indicative of some deeper phenomenon of overprotective parenting. In the Disney example (where one of the two women freely admit most of the photos on their blog come from), it’s more likely that a parent decided they could cover more ground and do more in less time by taking the stroller. Disney’s pretty expensive, after all, so why have the kid be so exhausted from walking miles in the theme parks that they miss out on the evening’s fireworks fun? (I’m one of those people who goes to Disney because the kids like it, after all.) I get it. Now, at a certain point, of course, the kid’s gotta suck it up and walk – and I get that too. But I’m saying that there are exceptions to each rule, and being empathetic toward those exceptions is part of being a parent…and, for that matter, an adult.
One-time stroller use, though fun to photo and plaster on the Internet, is not necessarily a recidivist phenomenon, or indicative of spoiling a kid. Let’s say a kid has spent the night puking his guts out. In the morning, if I live in the city and the doctor’s office is a few blocks away? Yeah, I might dust off the stroller. But go ahead – take our picture, ladies, and plaster it all over the Internet. Enjoy!
Basically, the punchline is that the Too Big For Stroller ladies are being bitchy because they don’t want to get it, for whatever reason. No problem. I’ll be getting a new stroller soon when I have a baby this summer. Watch your toesies!