Friday, July 24, 2009

Baby stuff

A visit to the mall generally serves to reinforce two points for me: first, I'm made aware that I'm not exceptionally fat, perhaps not even average fat; and second, I'm resolved to continue to order my life so that it will be at least another six months before I feel compelled to make another visit.

During yesterday's sojourn, while treating my daughter to the delights of Subway in the mall food court, I observed that the smallest patrons were taking up the most room. I'm referring to the apartment-on-wheels that is the modern baby stroller. I think some of these contraptions may be the size of a compact car. Plus, they have the amenities of a new minivan, with cup holders, snack trays, luggage racks, rear trunks, etc. I would wager that the majority of immigrants to Ellis Island a century ago arrived with less baggage than that toted by the average baby stroller at the mall.

What has persuaded parents that an outing with baby has the packing requirements of a months-long safari?

There's a funny sequence in the film "Away We Go" in which the male lead presents a stroller to a friend who is apparently under the influence of attachment parenting gone manic. She reacts with disgust, noting that she loves her child, "why would I want to push him away from me?" The film pokes fun at her devotion to her dogma, but I couldn't help thinking of that scene while maneuvering around the goliathan strollers parked in the food court aisles.

When my children were babies, I had a stroller. It was a simple umbrella design, no baskets or frills. I think I paid about $20 for it. I liked it because it was very portable and could quickly fold up to about the size of an umbrella, which made it easy to store not only in the house, but on transportation, public or private. These new huge strollers must be co-dependent with a three-car garage.

I will not be the first to say that buying more stuff doesn't make one a better parent. Our children, at whatever age, really need very few materials. I remember hearing a story many years ago from my La Leche League leader about a long bus journey she had been on in Spain; a woman on the bus was traveling with a baby, just the baby a clean cloth diaper. After she changed the diaper, she washed out the dirty in the bus lavatory and then hung it from the window to dry for the next changing. My LLL leader said that taught her what was really necessary for infant care: "the baby and a spare diaper, that's all you need."