I was reading Veronica’s post the other day and it really touched me as I remembered her being one of my single friends who always wanted a family and who was amazing with children. Her outlook on kids has always impressed and challenged me. When we lived together in the UK we were having a meeting, talking about family. She mentioned that she read a story about how babies must feel being in strollers or a car seat all the time experiencing the world alone. At the time I was single and never really thought much about what she was saying. I had been a nanny and a stroller is how you get kids from one place to the next. Disclaimer: This is NOT an anti-stroller post!
A few years later I was living in the midwest and I thought back to this conversation because a friend of mine had a baby and what stood out to me as I watched them over the years was that she carried him a lot. Of course, she used strollers and car seats but I often saw her with him in her arms. I never noticed how much we rely on ‘things’ to contain children until I saw how much she carried her son. Again, it got the wheels turning in my head. Onto a few years later I had my own. We took our son to South Africa when he was three months and most of the African women wore the baby on their back with just a small blanket, a sheet or even a towel wrapped around the baby. It was quite a skill to watch then sling a baby within seconds and the sling didn’t cost $80 or have any fancy clips or straps. So while I used a stroller to wheel my son around I was also fascinated with trying to wrap him up and take him out. So I started using small blankets, just like the SA women, and strapped him to my body. It was actually easier and he stayed calm a lot more being close to me.
Next came my daughter. Her first few months were a blur because my son was highly active and all I remember is chasing him around. So instead of trying to manouver a stroller in and out of small spaces in a store I wore her close to me. We’ve never had a lot of money as a family and frankly I have always felt that baby equipment is often way overpriced. Sometimes it even seems to act as a sort of status symbol. I’ll stop there. So I went to the fabric store, bought two yards of lovely fabric and made a sort of hammock sling that I tied at the top of my shoulder. I never even sewed a stitch. The funny thing is that I got comments and compliments on it everywhere I went. “What a lovely sling, where did you get it?” Now I had the freedom to keep Chloe close to my body while chasing after my highly active son. I had a hands free devise as well. I was free to do dishes or help my son with something while still holding her. And the “sling” was a total of $5.
I saw the movie Away We Go and there is a scene set in Madison, WI where Maggie Gyllenhaal is the sterotypical earthy, progressive momma. She has a “three S” law that she lives by. I don’t remember what the first two S’s were but the last one is “No Strollers”. “I love my babies, why would I want to PUSH them away from me?” Hilarious. I’m not really one of those women, whatever that means. I had a neighbor who literally carried her daughter everywhere, even out to the car to get groceries or sweeping the kitchen floor. She never put her down. I really admired her but knew I couldn’t commit to wearing my kids that much. But I did enjoy wearing them as much as I could. It calmed them down, reminded me that they were there (something I can forget about when they are newborns-they sleep A LOT) and made life a wee bit easier in some ways. It seemed like I was experiencing the world with them and they with me. I felt that I left my son in his car seat a lot when he was little and I didn’t want to do that again after I had another child. I’m sure I didn’t damage him I just wanted my life to remain sort of the same (HAHA, right?) and my schedule, along with my hands, to remain free to do what I had always done. Looking back I wish I had paid more attention. It was all so new to me and so rattling to my disposition, I have always been very independent. Out of the two of my kids he is the one who craves physical touch more. We took him everywhere with us but I do wish I would have carried him more.
My life has slowed down a lot since I had two (yet it’s also very busy- go figure!) and my practices of raising children are becoming more defined. I’m becoming more interesting in slow living and slow parenting. As we have more I feel a bit more equipped and honestly more interested in the process. I know children need a lot of touch and eye contact to make them feel secure but I am also a huge advocate of connecting with your children in a variety of ways. One easy way, that can be very inexpensive and actually very satisfying is to carry your baby. Experience the world together. Some books say our kids won’t learn to be independent if we coddle them and hold them all the time. Well, babies don’t need independence, they need love and safety. Yes, they can cry it out but we’re not trying to teach them major life lessons while they have only been alive for a few months. It is very sacrificial and often exhausting but the season is so fleeting. My son is five and I can barely pick him up. Soon he won’t even want me to hold his hand in public or to walk too closely to him when he sees his friends. These are the days to savor.
Enjoy life with your kids today.
Want to read more posts like this? Subscribe to Tea And Chopsticks