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It's My Kid, And I'll Schlep If I Want To

Me ruining my child with some age-inappropriate carrying

Spinning off the 100,000 pageview question of whether kids are too big for their strollers, Babble just published “Celeb Kids Who are Too Big To Be Carried“.

The article left me with a couple of questions.

1. If kids are supposed to be too big for their strollers,  how, exactly, are parents supposed to deal with them when they inevitably get tired, aside from picking them up?

2. Why the hell do people give a rat’s ass about this?

Let’s start with the first question, because the second one might take a while.

Apparently, the implication is that kids should be locomoting on their own. As the creator of the Too Big for Stroller blog baldly puts it: WALK.

Yeah, right.

Have either of these people ever tried spending a day on the street with a small child? I’m going with no, and I’d bet my stroller on it.

Sure, you’ll find the odd, exceptionally judgmental parent who takes a hard line on the “too big” question. In these situations, it’s usually a case of  “we didn’t need to do this past a certain point so you don’t, either”. Your kids were walking 4 miles by 18 months old? AWESOME. But every kid is his or her own ball of wax, with varying degrees of motivation, concentration, speed and stamina. Not to mention the different circumstances in parents’ lives that can make expediting child transport a convenience bordering on necessity.

I’d guess that even fewer parents would judge others for carrying a child (the fairly unanimous comments on Babble’s Facebook page seem to back this theory up.) Children are carried for any number of reasons. A kid might have just woken up from a nap, or need comfort. A parent might actually WANT to be close to the child. Carrying brings a kid’s face close to a parent’s, allowing for conversation in a way that can’t happen if the kid is walking. Maybe the parent doesn’t get to spend as much time with the kid as she’d like because she’s busy with her job as a very important celebrity and wants to maximize contact. Hell, maybe the parent wants an arm workout.

The real question is, why would anyone care? What exactly is wrong here?

Generally, the hands pointing fingers at these parents suggest that they are “inappropritately” coddling their children. And generally, the hands are attached to people who have no children. This kind of critique is based on an idea about how kids should be able to function, not first-hand knowledge. And it’s wrapped up in our culture’s view that children are supposed to be independent as soon as possible (yet, oddly enough, never allowed to do a single thing without scrupulous adult supervision).

What is it about a child who looks like he is receiving comfort or assistance that itsn’t absolutely necessary that feels indulgent? And why does the idea of children being indulged drive people so damn insane?

  • Fear. These people don’t have kids yet. They are afraid of what will happen to them if they do. When kids are being pushed in strollers or carried in parents arms, the parents appear to be servicing the children’s needs at the expense of their own (whether those needs are to avoid back strain or to avoid appearing like a gross parent dork occupying too much sidewalk real estate). This makes the childless person feel anxious that they too might be so subjugated someday, and try to put down the behavior in attempt to protect themselves.
  • Jealousy. Why do these kids get to be treated like Pashas parading down the street when no one doted (or dotes) on me like that?  Or why do these parents want to call attention to their parent-y selves by holding their child aloft like a trophy?
  • Intolerance of difference. See above: people don’t understand the reality of life with children so they don’t understand why a stroller or a lift might be necessary or desirable.
  • Squeamishness/intimacy anxiety: Any physical contact between parent and child that falls outside of a norm can be perceived as inappropriate. Babies shouldn’t breastfeed once they can talk. Children shouldn’t sleep with their parents. Carrying after a certain age can trigger the same kind of knee jerk response.
  • Puritan work ethic/distaste for laziness. Due to lack of understanding, they assume the child is being carried because he is too damn lazy to walk. And that this individual child’s laziness is emblematic of everything that is wrong with our morbidly obese couch potato culture. If only people would get off their asses and exercise, say by carrying 35 lbs of kid around occasionally.

There is, in reality, such a thing as “too big to be carried”. Like any other child-rearing decision, the point at which that threshold is crossed is determined by each individual parent, taking into account his/her own ideas, parenting style, back strength and access to massage therapy.

 

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