Carrying my kids

She's hiding in my arm pit.

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.

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16 thoughts on “Carrying my kids

  1. Tracie,
    That was lovely. I always try to remind my friends with little kids when things get crazy to stay in the moment (which sound cheesy, but I don’t know what else to say) Kids are grow so fast and each stage is amazing, even the hard ones, which won’t last forever. I know it’s easier said then done, especially by one without children and I hope that when I have my own children I’ll remember to take my own advice. I’m continually impressed by my friends who have kids, they are great parents. You being one of them. I like your blogs, so nicely written. It breaks my heart to see children being neglected by their parents, especially when it’s more important to them to pursue money and material possessions, thinking that is the measure of being a good parent.
    Good work, my friend. Your kids are beautiful. And as always I look forward to when you move back. We’ll eat lots of gelato together! Oh hey, I just found out Apple is opening a store in Tacoma.

    • Thanks, friend. Very encouraging. I think when you have them you’re going to be a rad mom. It’s already going fast. My son is so big right now. He still loves to cuddle so I’m trying to savor that. It will be gone before I know it.

  2. Lovely! I definitely plan on “wearing” my baby. I see so many babies sitting in their car seat/stroller feeding themselves with a bottle. So sad! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I like this. It’s a parenting strategy that is well thought out and not birthed out of panic. I’m pretty sick of society changing it’s mind every few months on how not to warp children. The truth is, we are all going to warp our children in one way or another. Once we get a hold of that and forgive ourselves in advance for the inevitable damage we will do, we can finally start relaxing and enjoying our children. Perhap that peace will even make us better parents. I think you are a wonderful Mum. I hope that when God blesses me with children one day I will be as good as you:)

  4. Hi, Tracie. Tiffany told me about your blog, and I like it SO much. It’s really great to hear your words about carrying babies. I never had a specific parenting style in mind before he was born, but my son has definitely taught me a lot. I haven’t put him in a stroller yet, because the stroller we bought is just for bigger kids, and I figured I wouldn’t really want to stroll him around so much as a tiny baby. I also ended up carrying and wearing him a lot from day one because as a newborn, he didn’t sleep well unless he was being touched or at least watched over. As he gets older, he likes his space a little bit more, and I’ll let him chill on his own for a little while here and there when he is happy to do so. I’m also really independent, but I found I “didn’t mind” him being such an “attention hog” (we used the term affectionately 😉 ) because I liked him so much. Thank you for the advice. I really think I will hold and wear and snuggle him with more gladness and pride. Thanks for the words!

    • Hey Lindsey, great to see you reading. Thanks for the comments. I wish I would have done what you are doing sooner but I really got more into carrying kids when my second was born, which is actually harder when you’re chasing another child around. Great to see you are doing that. I think it’s so important for our babies to feel us when they are little.

  5. Love this post! The thing that popped immediately into my mind when you wrote, “Disclaimer: This is NOT an anti-stroller post!” was Maggie being chased around her house my her brother with that red stroller. That movie was so great and hilarious…I love that you referenced it. Anyway, I never got the hang of the sling thing. I did the baby Bjorn thing which was great and then with Samuel we sprung for an Ergo baby because that was about the only thing we got for him in terms of baby gear. I always was trying to figure out how to tie them onto my back African style but it always seemed like they were going to fling themselves out of it backwards (this was when they were a little older and at the stage where they had to be held every second of the day). I really like how your homemade sling looks…more like a cocoon than the some of the slings I saw in the store. If we have another I’ll have to get you to teach me how to do it cause I really want to give it a try.

    • Rachel, we loved the Bjorn too. Well, we had a Bjorn knock off but used it when the kids were newborns. It was amazing to see the women in Africa sling a baby with such speed and confidence. I did it my own way but could never get the hang of slinging them on the back, which is far more practical in my mind. Having a baby in the front gets HEAVY! Thanks for commenting

  6. I can relate with you, Tracie, on the first and second child experience. Becoming a mom didn’t just “happen” when a newborn was laid in my arms (as it seems to happen for some). It took me probably two years to transform into a mom. That said, my first was in car seats a ton and not held very often at home. And as you know, I tended toward the cry-it-out method. Now, he is always craving affection and tons of emotional connection and affirmation. I do wonder if that is because I tried to maintain my own sense of independence, rather than embrace being needed.
    *Motherhood is a much more emotional place than I ever imagined!*
    With my second, I felt I actually bonded with her early on, and as a result wanted to carry her a lot more. I also felt more equipped to answer her cries. I used a scarf for the first four months that I paid $5 for, then found a sling more her size. I still hold/carry her very often, at 15 mo old, though she’s just about walking and needs that less.

    • That’s a very honest thing to say Lori. Thanks for commenting. I hear you totally. I love how much conversation this is generating with moms and my single friends. I think the topic of being intentional with raising children is really huge right now. They sure do deserve being needed. Well said!

  7. I also relate to the first child thing. I have regrets with Kai as well – too much car seat/crib time. I don’t know why? I guess with the first I just didn’t really know what I was doing or what I wanted to do and didn’t put enough thought into it, as well as a lack of confidence and having too much pressure from outside influences to have a “schedule” or whatnot. My other three have all slept with me since the day they’re born, nursed whenever they wanted and stayed closer by my side. I like that so much better. It does make you wonder how much those things affect their life and behavior today.

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