This morning we headed over to the shul nearby (just a couple of blocks away) rather than schlep downtown to our shul. We got all ready to go, got outside, and realized that the stroller had been left out in the rain and was still very soggy. No stroller for us. Not one to be deterred, I insisted that we could all walk.
Yup, N is walking now. He spends hours every day toddling around the house while holding various objects, so why shouldn’t he be able to walk on the sidewalk? As it turns out, there’s no reason why not. I carried him where there was no sidewalk, or when we were crossing the street, but otherwise I let him walk on his own two feet as much as possible. Sometimes he held my hand, sometimes he didn’t, but he always stayed beside me – unless something in a shop window caught his eye. I did have to pick him up and haul him away from a few tempting displays, but for the most part he walked very nicely. I’d estimate he did about 200 metres on his own. Not bad for a kid who’s not yet fifteen months old.
This is a bit of a soapbox issue, I’ll admit. One of the things that drives me nuts is seeing kids who are five and six years old sitting in a stroller. Kids want and need to move. With the exception of special needs children, I don’t see any reason why a child of five can’t walk less than a kilometre to the local park.
(Please don’t misunderstand me. I definitely don’t think that all or even most fifteen-month-olds can walk that distance, or possibly at all. K couldn’t. Please don’t comment about how some kids can’t walk that distance until they’re 2 or older. I know that already. Just read the rest of the post.)
I totally get why we as parents like to put kids into the stroller. It contains them, keeps them from running and jumping off things, and allows us to move at an adult pace when we need to be somewhere on time. But surely there are lots of times when it becomes automatic, or when the child in question whines to be pushed in the stroller (I get it all the time from K; the answer is “no”) but could be encouraged to walk instead? At a time when fruit juice is being demonized because it contributes to child obesity, shouldn’t we be making all the kids walk (or run) as much as possible?
Lest you think I’m totally a sanctimonious ass, I want to point out that I’m sure there are some good reasons why excellent parents put their older kids in a stroller. Also, I can appreciate the fact that sometimes we all need to just get where we’re going with a minimum of tantrums and distractions. Lastly, as with so many of my soapbox issues, I see this as partly a cultural/systemic problem. We’re all in a rush to go somewhere. Our culture seems to demand that we work long hours, cram in errands on evenings and weekends, take our children to “enrichment” activities… all of this requires a certain amount of hurry. Who has time to let the toddler walk at his (glacial) pace and look at every shop window?
On Shabbat, at least, we do… until I get impatient and scoop the kid up again!