Despite predictions of gloom, cold and rain, my family trudged out to a local fair on Saturday. After paying to park at least a half-mile away from the fair, my husband threw our son on his shoulders, I grabbed my purse stuffed with spare diapers, a sippy cup, a spare outfit (the kid decorates himself when he eats) and rain jackets for all and we headed off to the fair.
When we arrived inside the gates, we headed straight for the animals. This past summer, my husband and I bought a small "hobby farm" in my home state -- something that we had long dreamed about making a reality. Our new/old farmhouse was, and still is, in desperate need of renovations, and the tales of our remodeling are best left for another day. Nonetheless and despite the fact that we still have exposed beams (not in the good way) in much of the house, we are debating and love talking about what animals will one day join us on our little farm. So, when we arrived at the fair, we naturally headed over to the animals that we are considering. First up: dairy cows. I love them but know that they are a ton of work. Our son, Liam, took great joy in walking down each of the aisles while holding my hand, pointing at the cows and saying "mooooo." Next up: sheep. Liam let us know that he was done walking and would much prefer to crawl amongst the sheep rather than be carried or walk on his own, thank-you very much. Crawling on a floor covered in sheep manure didn't work for me, so we spent a fun few minutes with him refusing to walk or be picked up and me refusing to let him crawl. The tantrum passed and after a few minutes of him sitting in the middle of an aisle, he got back to his feet and continued to walk down the aisles looking at the "sheeee" and saying "baa." Throughout all of our trudging among different animals and watching parades and ordering way-too-greasy of food, there was one piece of equipment that was conspicuously absent from our little tribe: a stroller.
Liam spent the entire fair on my husband's shoulders, in my arms or walking on his own. I know that in a way we have it easier because our kid is on the lighter side, but he still gets heavy after a while. The kid is no speed demon. Letting him walk on his own can be downright painful, especially when you just. want. to. get. home. Nonetheless, I truly believe there is value in foregoing the stroller most of the time. Don't get me wrong, we have two strollers: a jogging stroller that I LOVE and so does Liam and a fancy-pants stroller that we bought when I lived my prior life as a corporate litigator.
For me -- and for us -- I have always believed in baby-wearing and now toddler-carrying. When he was a true baby, he spent much of his days in various baby carriers. Now that he can walk, I believe there is value in teaching Liam that he has two feet and legs that seems so little now, but that will soon have him running, leaping, jumping and playing. I want him to be up, be active, to run so fast that he feels like his feet can't keep up with his legs. I hope that he learns that his feet can take him anywhere.
Right now, as a 20-month old toddler, I know that his little legs frequently need a break. While he is a full-fledged toddler and no longer my tiny baby, I know that he is not grown either. He needs to be close. He needs to be held, cuddled and loved close. When he lets me know that he can no longer walk, I carry my little boy, either just in my arms or in a carrier. I like having him close to my eye level, seeing what I am seeing. When we are looking at the same huge horse at the fair, it is easy to engage him. Holding him, I can sense in his body language when he is excited or scared. I can get excited with him when we turn the corner to see my husband walking toward us. I can comfort him and let him know that the loud noise is not going to hurt him. In contrast, I think it is so very easy to become disconnected with my little boy when he is in a stroller. Perhaps he is enjoying watching the world go by, but it is so easy for a walk to devolve into me thinking about what I have to do for work the next day and maybe he is looking at the bugs on the sidewalk but neither of us is talking. I know that the days that I can hold him and that he wants to be held are limited, so for this period of time, I will hold him when I can and encourage his little legs to take off when he is not in my arms.