Today at the pediatrician’s office we learned that the baby was twenty four inches tall. That’s a full two feet for the young man, who weighs almost fifteen pounds.
It’s impressive, particularly when he is strapped to me in our Baby Bjorn. We have the top of the line carrier, with dual cup holders, halogen lights and GPS. All that gear does nothing to mitigate that I’m carrying fifteen pounds of solid baby in that thing. And he is solid, seemingly made of kielbasa.
He is breastfeeding solidly now, and we are getting sleep in solid four and five hour stretches. I have regained some brain function. The walking into walls has abated. I no longer find myself waking up at ten in the morning on a workday with my arm around the cat (instead of my wife) in a compromising trans-species moment. Still trying to shake off the memory.
At this node in our parenting story, we have become passionate connoisseurs of baby gear, dissecting the fine points of the best burp cloths (“This one is so absorbent and the color makes the spit up hardly noticeable.”)
These days, I look at strollers with the admiration I once applied to cars or women.
Have you looked at a stroller recently, I mean really looked? Like movies, they have become overproduced. As we glide down the street with our Uppababy Cruz, with its modular car seat attachment, extendable handle, and speedy folding system, we get stroller envy nevertheless. Sometimes we are eating the dust of a competitor built like a Ferrari, an agile, catlike device that must have cost more than a month’s pre-school tuition. Sometimes we’ve been all but blown off the sidewalk by strollers designed like Hummers, gutsy asskickers that would be great for loping tirelessly in Survivalist mode across Death Valley, gripping the last cold beer in the world, pausing only to put more SPF 1000 on the world’s last baby, who happens to be your baby. (People who have Hummer strollers scare me.)
You don’t need all that technology, just like you don’t need a Transformers movie. But you want it anyway. We are thinking about the cupholder attachment with cell phone tray even though we already have the rain cover and mosquito netting. We would be easily talked into a stroller-mounted WiFi hotspot if Uppababy offered that.
The funny thing is our baby has zero appreciation for these add ons. When we stroll him, he wants us to stare at him, not at the small electric boxes that we poke at incessantly. When I give him a bottle, I am not allowed to post to Pinterest at the same time – he makes a big show of choking.
Babies, I’ve learned, are minimalists. They want you to do what you are doing.
In this spirit of simplicity I’ll mention now that the original stroller was invented by a man who knew a lot about umbrellas.
In 1965, Owen Finlay Maclaren, a British expert in aeronautical design, witnessed his daughter struggling with an old-fashioned ‘pushchair’ as it was then called. He envisioned something that could fold like an umbrella, was made of tubular aluminum, and was easy to handle. He did this without the assistance of even one latte, and never texted anybody about it, and for his effort Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He also designed the undercarriage of the legendary Spitfire aircraft, which was also impressive. Both stroller and Spitfire lacked cupholders, and we will let this go, because everything was primitive in 1965. Back then, merely rolling children about Hyde Park was sufficiently entertaining, only birds were Tweeting, Blackberrys made for good eating, and a facebook was an object.
Maclaren’s rolling chair delivers a straight caffeine shot of design purity. It is designed to do what it does. That’s all. It isn’t a fashion statement, or a what-if scenario, or an extension of anybody’s ego. It is itself, little changed from its birth in 1965. The Rationalist says we can never return to that kind of simplicity, but the Dreamer says we can try.