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May 26 2011

Life Without a Stroller

By at 11:06 am

My daughter Ronia and I are proudly car-free in Philadelphia, which takes some doing. One of Ronia’s first phrases was “Here comes the TRAAAAIIIIIINNNN” and she sometimes asks to ride it even when we have borrowed a car for the day.

However, I didn’t realize how dependent we had become on another four-wheeled conveyance until Ronia returned from her trip to Toronto without her stroller.

Ronia does have a backup stroller, but it’s a relic of the period where her mother lived up a narrow stairway, it’s basically a glorified doll-hauler. It is just a treacherous inch or so too short for my height, so I lurch like a proverbial “Hunchback of Notre Pere”

So when I picked up Ronia from school, despite needing to visit the bank and our winter CSA pickup, I set off on foot. Unwheeled.

I have written about Ronia’s endurance before, but something about not having the backup made her uncharacteristically wearied. Also, I was much less able to corral her, and had to surrender utterly to her pace. We made slow progress, punctuated by joyful cries of “Ants, Daddy, Ants!!” and queries of “Are those tulips or crocuses?”

I realized how lacking my stroller made me much less able to physically coerce Ronia, I couldn’t bundle her in it when my patience was finally exhausted. Nor could I keep her within reach. I lacked any personal space for her to have accidents in. If I wanted to move her, I had to carry her, my hands interlocked under her tushy.

I was wheeling a fashionable rolling cart of the kind I imagine to popular in Manhattan, purchased at deep discount in Philadelphia. It was very tempting to stuff Ronia into it, but I resisted. We were rained on. My iPhone, which I use to check email during Ronia’s moments of reverie, died. When I ran into a daddy friend with a newborn in tow, I had to force myself to cross the street to see him, costing us precious feet.

At a certain point, I realized this had taken an hour, interminable feeling but not time out of our life. In fact, it was our life. I was encouraged enough to go to the food coop. With Ronia’s tricycle. That she refused to ride.

May 12 2011

Stroller Bitches

By at 11:41 am

From toobigforstroller.com

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!

Apr 15 2011

The Weekly Roundup: What to Expect When You’re Zsa Zsa Gabor

By at 4:15 pm

All the Jewish parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.

Zsa Zsa Gabor is 94 years old, and thinking about having a baby. Actually, it was her (ninth) husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt’s idea to use an egg donor, artificial insemination, and a surrogate mother to carry on the legacy. While it looks like it won’t happen, my favorite part of the whole ordeal is Zsa Zsa’s only daughter’s response: “That’s just weird.”

– You know what else is just weird? Gender cake parties. You know, where the expecting parents hand over the obstetrician’s report on the sex of the baby to a baker, without looking at its results. Then, the baker makes a cake which the couple then has to slice into to reveal either a pink or blue inside and voila, it’s a girl or boy! Weird!

– There’s been a lot of hustle and bustle over strollers recently–really expensive strollers, too. Tom Scocca takes an endearingly level-headed approach to figuring out why we even need strollers, and what the alternative would be in a fast-paced city like New York.

– I am nearly positive the circumcision debate will never, ever cease to exist, and here’s another log on the fire: should teenage boys decide? If so, I think we can all say bye-bye to circumcision as we know it.

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