By Miss Pollyanna, 4th April 2016

The Great Buggy Debate

I Pushed my Son until he was Four...

I Pushed my Son until he was Four…

… Because sometimes you have to take the Path of Least Resistance! Recently, The Daily Mail published an article about the ‘dangers’ of children staying in buggies beyond the age deemed appropriate by society. What a load of pants. Or rather nappies. Us parents have enough of a responsibility on our daily hands as it is, and here we go, yet another panel of ‘gurus’ telling us how we should be raising our children.

First off Daily Mail: The subheading ‘The four-year-olds who are still pushed around in prams… and the defiant mothers who can’t see ANYTHING wrong with it’ is ever so slightly misleading, for the word pram is actually the shortened form of the longer word perambulator.

Aka one of these:
baby dog pram
Which would make for an interesting time of it trying to squeeze a four year old in, don’t you think…?

Second off: actually Mum – and Dad – know best.
We do. Sometimes, even at the ripe old age of four, I deemed it necessary to pop my (not so little, admittedly) boy in his buggy. But according to the DM, that isn’t good for his well-being. He could become (or already be) anything from obese to speech impaired. Well, to me that’s quite a revelation.

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Now I must confess, the paper does stipulate they are talking about excessive buggy use. And our random excursions in the pushchair hardly constituted that. But, what this article does display, in my opinion anyway, is yet another example of ridiculously unhelpful advice being offered up.

It kind of harks back to that not so old chestnut, The Breastfeeding J.O saga

Because it’s another way parents get ultra competitive and sanctimonious.
When we should be supporting one another, realising we have NOT got the foggiest what it is like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, butting out, and giving one another a break. It’s another foray into judgmental waters courtesy of the ‘experts’.

And really, we don’t need to be told these things, they are common sense. Maybe there are parents out there who overdo it on the pushchair use, but there will come a time when their child:
a) simply cannot fit into the contraption… without their legs being dragged along the ground. Which gets nobody anywhere very fast. And..
b) a child will, of their own accord, naturally grow out of any reluctance to give up their ‘ride’. I don’t think I have ever seen my now 8 year old daughter jump so quickly as the time she ‘just couldn’t walk any further’… and we chanced on passing some children from her school. Her last dregs of sentimental attachment to her brother’s – I should add – buggy, all over in one fell swoop.

We know that it is healthier for our kids to be running around like free range hens.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it is not appropriate. For me those incidents are times such as when we visit my parents, whose house fronts a main road with narrow pavements and lots of traffic. My little boy is a Jumping Bean. Far better to restrict his movement for 15 minutes than scoop him up off the road like a pancake, wouldn’t you agree? Yes, he does have to learn road safety at some point, but not in the height of rush hour traffic amidst great hurtling lorries. This is the path of least resistance. Happy Parents = Happy Children.

Dr Alastair Sutcliffe, consultant paediatrician at University College London, may not agree (see his fabulously unhelpful quote below).

‘The notion that a healthy child of four needs to go around in a buggy is poppycock,’ he says. ‘Children need to experience life to the full and not live in some mollycoddled, risk-averse environment.’ 

But he is not the parent of my child, of any of our children.

I am all for letting children explore boundaries. But we’ll start with a somewhat less dramatic place than a busy traffic busting road, thank you very much Alastair!

We know that giving them the independence to leg it around Legoland, for instance, would make their day.
But it is busy. We have an older child to contend with. We are actually tackling the park alone today, and it is heaving, heaving! What’s better now? To give our four year old the freedom to run wild in the crowds so that we lose him and have the tannoy system blaring out urgent messages? Or to play it safe, just until we can act responsibly as a parent with our eyes on both children (one of whom is prone to not keeping hold of our hand)? This is the path of least resistance. Happy Parents = Happy Children.

That’s an equation I have used a lot in this article. Because it is true. We are better parents when we are confident and assured in what we are doing, as opposed to following everybody else like sheep and doing what they think we should.

We know that it will do our four year old the world of good to keep fit in the shopping mall.
But it’s another one of those days. We have no adult back up. We have a mountain of bags to carry… not to mention our eldest child who loves to run ahead herself. What should we do now? Add to an already stressful situation and let the youngest join in? Have the buggy tip up because we are now top heavy with purchases… groceries rolling all over the floor… the kids have suddenly done a runner in M&S and here we go again… tannoy announcement? We’ll see them again if we’re lucky? This is the path of least resistance. Happy Parents = Happy Children.

We’re on holiday abroad. We’re eating out as a family. It’s a long walk back to the hotel after dinner.
We take the buggy. Our four year old can probably walk most of the way… but she might get tired… it’s a little past her bedtime. And for sure she will be zonked on the way back. We’re talking a half an hour walk on uneven pavements at 11.30pm at night. Do we risk it and make her do it anyway a la boot camp? Or do one of us parents put our backs out carrying her just to initially ‘do the right thing’ and ensure she seizes every window of opportunity for fitness… arguing all the way back because she is too heavy… waking up with a slipped disc in the morning unable to take the children swimming in the pool for the rest of the week? Well, I would hope you are getting the hang of this. Once more I would encourage you to take the path of least resistance. Happy Parents = Happy Children. As by now we surely know!

Experts: put a sock in it please. Get back to researching something that’s actually useful and leave us to do the job that only we know how to: raising our children our way.

Incidentally, just last week I finally threw away my not-so-little boy’s pushchair. Well, he is now 5 and actually the last time we did use it was on that fun-packed trip to Legoland. But you know what? I am glad I waited. He recently enjoyed a phase of playing Daddy to a bunch of teddy bears. Which gave him – and his sister – hours of fun.

So don’t snub the humble pushchair so quickly. Where you deem our children to be ‘missing out’ on social skills, believe me, an empty buggy and a little role play will have them more than make up for it.

What did you think?

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