A nice, brisk, spring stroll along the lakeshore at Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park was just what the doctor ordered after a long winter of kids constantly sick with tonsillitis. My mood was as grey as the endless weeks of dreary weather we endured that snowless year with no tobogganing or fort-building to make it all worthwhile.
It was a few years ago when my daughter was 4 and my son just 2 – her happily walking alongside me like a little soldier, ready to obey my every command and him constantly seeking that tiny window of opportunity to make a mad dash and do a cannonball into Lake Ontario. She had never been the type to bolt and was exceptionally compliant from day one. He… ummm…not so much. That hasn’t changed to this day. She needs very little supervision – he needs LOTS. That’s just the way they are.
But, back to my story…we’re walking along and I notice stares and the occasional “evil eye” (or the “malocchio” as my mother-in-law would call it) from the folks around us. I feel a little weird and check that my kids haven’t puked on themselves and that my fly is done up – all is seemingly well. Finally a passerby says with disgust, “Nice kid on a leash – what, do you put your dog in a stroller too?”
I won’t share the exact words contained in my response, as I prefer to r0emain employed, but I was very offended and shocked to say the least. I work in health promotion and disease prevention. I know that physical activity (and LOTS of it) is the key to a healthy mind and body. In light of a recent report (updated 2015), essentially telling us our kids don’t move around enough and in the face of sky-rocketing childhood obesity rates in Canada, why would I want my 2-year-old son to sit down in a stroller for hours during our outdoor excursion, when he could be walking, jumping, exploring, touching stuff…a million things to build brain cells and a healthy body – none of which happens when he’s SITTING?!?!
This experience opened my eyes (not that I didn’t already know but it reminded me) of how judgmental people can be of one another’s parenting and how hurtful words can be – how a person’s intentions can be so completely misunderstood and how really hard it is to be a parent sometimes. Really though, are we all that different?
Parents sit children in strollers for the same reasons I tethered my son’s cute little Elmo harness to my waist – for safety and convenience and for the simple fact that sometimes you need your hands free to do what you gotta do; especially when you have more than one kid and the one in question can outrun you! Whether a stroller or a “leash” (ahem…I prefer to call it a “harness”) it provides physical containment nonetheless. Why not let kids move around while safely contained? Kids are naturally active – we grown-ups impose a sedentary lifestyle on them. Maybe the reason why they fight so hard not to get into the stroller is because they know what I know…once they’re in there…they’re not gonna play…they’re gonna sit…for a long time.
P.S. Check out this Huffington Post article about the “kids on leashes” debate. Very interesting!
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About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)