“We’re not taking the stroller.”
“Is that a question or a statement? Sounds like you made up your mind … shouldn’t we, like, I don’t know, talk about it? How can you make such an important decision by yourself?!”
I may have overreacted on that one.
I admit it, I freaked out when 24 hours before flying to France, Feng suggested—apparently, it was just a suggestion—we should travel without Mark’s Chicco stroller.
This stroller went to France, China, the US, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil multiple times. It’s pretty much a member of the family by now.
Not that I’m sentimental or anything, but a stroller is a must have for a baby, then it’s very useful to contain a toddler and it’s practical when you take an older kid on a day-long exploring marathon. Sure, pushing a four or five year old is tiring but so is listening to a kid whining about being tired. We walk a lot when we’re travelling.
So even though I’m usually the parent eager to get rid of the baby paraphernalia, I wasn’t sold on the idea of going to France without a stroller.
“That’s easy for you to say,” I argued. “You take him to the closest playground and sit around. My mom and I like to take long walks and I’m not spending the summer fighting with a kid who doesn’t want to go anywhere!”
Last December, in Santiago, we suddenly realized Mark didn’t know how to walk. I mean, he masters the basic put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other routine but he had no spatial awareness whatsoever and he didn’t seem to be willing to walk more than a few hundreds metres.
I can see why—Mark isn’t used to walk places.
His school is a twenty-five-minute walk—at my fast pace—from home, so Feng drives him to and from school. Feng also drives him to my in-laws, to the supermarket and to the few playgrounds he takes Mark to.
In Canada, the longest Mark walks is from the parking lot to the ice cream aisle in the supermarket.
Basically, Mark is your typical North American kid—he’s growing up in this car culture where walking is just a weird waste of time. It doesn’t help that even though we live close to downtown Ottawa, I can’t really take him for a walk anywhere fun, everything is too far for him.
At home, I’m the walker. Technically, I can drive too, but I don’t like it and Feng needs the car during the day anyway. I walk to wherever I need to meet a client, I walk to the supermarket, I walk to the gym and when the day is almost over, I take another long walk just to clear my mind. Basically, in doubt, I walk. For me, it’s a practical—if tiring—way to get around. The bus is expensive and unreliable and at least, I get my daily dose of exercise when I walk. Plus, I usually listen to podcasts so it’s actually enjoyable. Trust me, it comes with practice. You may balk at the idea of walking ten or twenty kilometres but it’s very doable.
So yes, rationally, at five and a half, Mark s getting too big for the stroller, which was mostly convenient for us.
We didn’t take the stroller. I made Mark promise he’d walk.
And when we arrive in Nantes. I gave him the trottinette we bought last year.
So far, Mark exceeded expectations. He can walk! He can behave! He can listen to instructions!
It’s been ten days that we are taking daily three-hour walks around the city and amazingly, Mark doesn’t complain about it (although if given the choice, he’d play with the tablet all day…).
As for me, I’m happy to be in a pedestrian-friendly environment again. It feels good to see people on the sidewalk, people walking around for no reason, people hanging out just because.
I hate the car culture in North America. It’s not healthy, both mentally and physically.