mush, husky parent

5/8/11

Those afflicted with a burning, itching case of misopedia will love this article: Why Do We Hate Seeing Big Kids In Strollers? For those disinclined to click on any links, ever, it’s a spirited Q&A with the proprietor of the blog Too Big For Stroller. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a collection of photos of slightly-older kids who seem perfectly capable of walking on their own, yet are pushed around in strollers by their doting parents.

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from the TBFS blog – I blurred the faces

This is another occasion where I get to say MAN, PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY SURE HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S PARENTING SKILLS. And I’m not immune to it, either – I’ve certainly found myself in full catty/bitchy mode discussing how eye-rollingly stupid some mother or father seems, despite knowing full well my subjectivity is shot. But I do try to keep it in check, because

a) what the fuck do I know?

b) kids are not widgets and respond differently to every coping mechanism

c) and, c,

d) complaining about other people’s parenting is so easy and feels so good that it must be bad for you.

My problem with the Salon article and the blog is not the mean-spiritedness (for which I’ve always meant spirit), but because it plays into a larger American narrative: kids today are lazy, obese, overconfident fuckwads who are mollycoddled by their ninny parents. Forget that these children in strollers are under 8 years old – it’s part of the same instant hatred we have for teens who text while they drive, can’t find Florida on a map of Florida, and are drunk with their own vanity.

You might counter that the criticism isn’t hurled at the kids; it’s reserved for their parents. But I think it’s time to debunk that particular canard. When people are disgusted by kids’ behavior, they are disgusted with the kid first and foremost, and the parent as an afterthought. Let’s face facts: children that don’t behave the way you want them to are easy to hate. I know, I was one of them.

When you see a child who is way too big for their stroller, you instantly think “what a lazy brat.” And that’s the real problem, because the child herself has no idea what’s going on – she just knows there’s a stroller and she was told to sit in it. And when there’s an article called “Why Do We Hate Seeing Big Kids in Strollers?”, it means there isn’t an article called “Why Do Parents Put Big Kids in Strollers?”

My other problem with the article and the blog is that both were written by someone without kids:

“I don’t have a kid. Maybe I don’t understand…”

“I don’t have kids either, and so maybe this is na├»ve, but…”

They probably should have recused themselves from the topic for the same reason I don’t write about experiences in the Israeli army or my struggles with endometriosis.

But let’s step even further back. Let’s forget about all the reasons why you’d have a larger kid in a stroller. Let’s ignore that it enables you and your child to see half a European city in one day (rather than twelve), or that you may have a child with special needs. Let us walk far enough back to ask: WHY THE FUCK DO WE EVEN HAVE AN OPINION? Why have we become such JUDGMENTAL NERVOUS NELLY SNARKMONSTERS that we feel our displeasure needs to be aired?

A woman pushing a shopping cart down the produce aisle is a discerning, healthy shopper – but if she pushes the same cart down a sidewalk, she’s fucking homeless. Doesn’t it all get a bit exhausting, all these opinions? For my part, I promise you this: I will never judge you by the thing with wheels you’re pushing.

I don’t care if the kid in your stroller is 10 years old and barking out directions in an English accent, with his knees near his mouth like a basketball player sitting in coach. I don’t care if you’re carting a masturbating teenager through the ped mall in a perambulator because his toesies hurt. If I see a big kid in a stroller, I’m not going to assume you’ve got a pretty damned good reason for it, I’m not even going to do you the dishonor of giving a shit.

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Lucy and Polly traverse Paris via stroller last year

0 thoughts on “mush, husky parent

  1. Ashley C

    LOVE LOVE LOVE! When I first started reading your blog I immediately thought “oh shit, I hope no one took a photo of my daughter getting pushed around Windsor last week”. Phew. But, yes, totally agree. Why do we care how other people parent as long as their parenting doesn’t cause me or my family grievous bodily harm?

    Reply
  2. scruggs

    Awesome! My coffee was a casualty of this one
    “I don’t care if you’re carting a masturbating teenager through the ped mall in a perambulator because his toesies hurt.”
    Incidentally, we are getting ready to head to Disney World for a week. Our 7 year old remembered all the walking from a trip a few years ago and has already asked if we would pack a stroller for him. Figured if he can double up soccer and baseball every season, he can walk the parks. But I may consider it now just to spite the sentiment in the article and facebook page!

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  3. tregen

    sounds defensive to me. Ultimately, it’s about the parents getting what they want not what’s best for the kid…. and you’re right, I don’t have kids but I’ve raised a few and just like TV’s in the car, TVs in the kids rooms, TVs in the kitchen, and every other “modern” convenience, it’s designed to keep the child and us, infantized as long as possible and justifying it out of convenience. Eventually becoming so completely dependent that we will never get out of the stroller and just go from big kids to big fat people in strollers, a la “Wal-Mart People” But, Ultimately, even if I find it sad to see big kids stuck in strollers so the parents can move faster and keep the kids locked close, it is their choice and I don’t give a shit but that doesn’t mean I won’t sit in judgment.

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  4. CM

    Why does everyone assume this was because of the parents? Maybe the kid was all, “Mommy, can’t I ride in the old stroller, please please please?” I would have totally been happy to ride in ANYTHING as a kid, even if it was meant for babies. Yeah, people should keep their opinions to themselves.
    I wish my biggest complaint in the world was seeing big kids in strollers!
    Instead, my complaint is boozy, irresponsible teenagers getting pregnant while my infertile friends cannot. Now, that sucks.

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  5. Stephani Gordon

    Becoming a parent (a recent phenom- and twins no less!) has cured me of a good 80% of my parenting opinions. Funny how much easier it is to have strong opinions when you’re not tasked with actually figuring it out in real time with real kids. The humility quotient goes way up, I tell ya.

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  6. GFWD

    I don’t care about the strollers because I would have loved riding in one when we spent 8 straight full days at the Disney and surrounding theme parks. My kids had a pimp double stroller that reclined to about 150 degrees with shade and footrests (just re-sold it on Craigslist for $150). If I could have poured my big ass into that stroller, you would have seen me peddle-rowing that bitch to every ride in the park: “We’re at ‘It’s a Small World’ kids. Get out and meet daddy at the exit. I’ll STILL be sitting in this stroller sipping on a Lilo & Stitch snow cone.”
    I reserve my holier than thou judgment for the kids who are old enough to walk and carry on conversations but still have pacifiers in their mouths.

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  7. Caroline

    Ian, next can you do a post on the ladies in NYC who use their strollers as a weapon? You know the ones who are perfectly content to run your toes right over because they always have the right of way? (Even when they clearly don’t….)

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  8. Lee

    Amen. That article pissed me off so much that I could barely look at my friend who posted it all day.
    And the reason we didn’t ride in strollers anywhere when we were kids? B/c our parents either left our asses at home or didn’t go anywhere.

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  9. Lee

    The other thing that pissed me off was the self righteous bullshit of the writer who said something like “of course we wouldn’t post pics of kids who are disabled”.
    How the hell can they tell WHO is disabled?? Are they testing for autism, paralysis, herniated discs, constipation, what?? wtf? And what about the parents who may be disabled for some reason and need the help?
    When traveling anywhere with a kid, you need one hand free at all times to hold the kid’s hand. What to do when you’re alone and that’s just not possible?
    Assholes. I can’t wait till they’re parents and CAN’T use the stroller in fear of being photographed and busted.
    See…. touched a nerve.

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  10. bridget

    good point about being cured of parenting opinions by becoming a parent! and here’s something I didn’t know about NYC stroller ladies until I became one. A lot of the time, the stroller is so laden with bags and groceries, in addition to the kid, that you often don’t see other people’s toes – especially on narrow Brooklyn sidewalks! So while it might seem like I’m acting like I assume I have the right of way, it could be that I don’t realize where I’ve crossed the line – so to speak.

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  11. wottop

    Went to Disney with a almost-4 and almost 2-year old. Took two umbrellas.
    Went back 3 years to the day, took the same 2 strollers. Everyone would give the the almost-5, but the almost-7?
    Screw ’em, unless they want to hang with us and listen to the 7-year-old complain for the entire week.

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  12. Deb

    Thanks for this, Ian. I have a big 4-year-old who loves to run when he feels like running, and loves to sit when he feels like sitting. Anyone who goes to Disney without a stroller is insane.

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  13. tregen

    I see I’m not making any friends today.
    However, I’m truly curious. Does everyone here really stand by the “you’re never to old to ride in a stroller” position? If next year 80% of 10 year olds are being pushed around by parents at disneyland… that’s cool? What about teenage years to lazuy to walk because they’re texting? Is there really no time that it becomes outrageous? Ian says he’s okay with teenage masturbators in strollers with hurt toes… fair enough. Nevertheless, I’m just curious if everyone truly things there is not appropriate age limit and if parents have gotten to the point that whatever is easiest is best and those who disagree be damned.
    I

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  14. Neva

    We went to Disney when our kids were like 2 and 5 and we had a Graco stroller for the 2 year old. Within a few hours our 5 year old began crawling underneath it into the netting where you usually put bags, etc. just so she wouldn’t have to walk anymore (or be dragged along by the hand). We took to calling her “the stuff” underneath the stroller. We hadn’t really thought about bringing her her own stroller (we only had the one that had been handed down by that point. Pushing both of them in that one Graco sucked, but it was still better than the torture of dragging an exhausted child through across Epcot Center.
    Also, Lee’s point is extremely good. 1 in 100 kids now have autism. They often do not walk as well or follow directions as well as other kids. You cannot tell by looking who those kids are.
    People using their time and energy to post pictures of big kids in strollers really need to find something useful to do with their lives.

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  15. Neva

    Also, Tregen, it’s not my business to decide what is cool for people to do at Disneyland. If 80% of the 10 year olds are in strollers next year, I don’t really care.
    A whole bunch of adults are on little scooters already.

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  16. Tammy O.

    I don’t disagree with any of your points in this blog post, Ian. But it does get exhausting being told that I should have no opinions or that I should share no opinions about parenting because I’m not a parent. It’s hard not to feel your increasing insistence on this point in many of your blog posts as a judgement about the choice not to have children. Many childfree people work with other people’s children and/or are very invested in helping to participate in the health and well-being of the children in their families or in their communities. Opinions about parenting? You bet. They’ve helped motivate some of the best child-free social workers, mentors, and teachers I’ve known.
    Besides, parents seem to have no compunction at all about telling me, time and again, that I should have children. Talk about an unwelcome judgement.

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  17. Ian

    Tammy, I’d never tell you that you don’t get to have opinions about kids, whether or not you’re a parent. Whenever I do these kinds of blog posts, it’s generally because someone has crossed some sort of line – i.e., posting snarky pictures of kids who could easily be recognized on the web despite their faces not being shown.
    I wouldn’t even say the owner of the stroller blog shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing. But she certainly doesn’t get to do it for free – she should expect assholes like me calling her out.
    As for muzzling people without children (and further, judging them – or you – for that choice), I certainly don’t feel that way, and can’t find the specific entries you mention. Suffice to say there’s a whole other blog about the bifurcation between the voluntarily childless and the breeders, and besides, anyone who disregards a Tammy O. opinion is going to have ME to deal with!

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  18. Tammy O.

    Thanks for your note, Ian. (Yes, the writer of that blog was a mean jackass.) This probably has less to do with your blog than the conversation I’ve been having with the world about babies since I was old enough to answer the question “How many kids do you want?” with “Why should I want kids?” That conversation has been dialed up to a pretty unimaginable volume since I hit my mid-thirties. Blarg.

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  19. Piglet

    Thank you.
    My child looks like a “normal” child half her age, but is developmentally disabled and can’t walk.
    So far no one has made negative assumptions about me and her. Not to my face, anyhow.

    Reply

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