My Philosophical Thoughts on Baby Strollers

Lately I’ve been thinking deeply about humanity and strollers. The fact that humans still exist is pretty astonishing, given that parents in the caveman era had to lug babies through the woods without dropping them, all while getting chased by velociraptors. 

I’ve never been chased by a velociraptor while transporting Thomas, but last weekend it was actually sunny for once, and we decided to put Thomas in the stroller for a walk. He stayed in the stroller until he started to recite his favorite mournful wail for the entire countryside to hear. My wife calls it the “Please Hold Me Now Wail.” We tried to continue onward, hoping he would settle down, but eventually a siren fired up in the distance, likely that of the Social Services rapid response team. Natalie then unstrapped Thomas, heaved him upward, and handed him off to me to carry half a mile back to the house, which is when I started thinking deeply about humanity and strollers. 

Granted, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought deeply about strollers. The first time was years ago, pre-parenthood, when my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to baby stroller Mecca, a.k.a. Disney World. At the time, I  had a general disdain for the strollers swarming all around me, specifically the one that mowed my foot off at the ankle. “Weakling dads,” I thought, “man up and heft your child so the rest of us can have a few square-inches to walk at the happiest place on Earth.” And I swore to myself I would not be a stroller dad if we ever had a kid. 

Well, turns out we did have a kid and he happens to be a giant. At seven months, he’s already outgrown his nine month clothes and hefting him any distance is like carrying a bag of cement with little arms and legs. Hence, I normally let Natalie push the stroller, that way I’m not seen as a stroller dad and my macho reputation is still intact. But occasionally I do have to heft him around, and I find myself thinking deeply about abandoning my pledge and using the stroller instead. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: “But, Stephen, your macho manly reputation will be in tatters if someone spots you pushing a baby stroller.” 

Likely you’d be right, if it wasn’t for the fact that my macho manly reputation was already in tatters because somebody at the sale barn let the dark secret slip that I’m a nerd and like Star Wars. Thus, I don’t have a whole lot to lose. But even if I did have a lot to lose, I think macho men and baby strollers can coexist these days. Times are changing. For proof, look no further than Star Wars itself and the most popular TV show around right now, the Mandalorian. The whole premise of the show is that a macho space gunslinger is followed around by a floating stroller. That wouldn’t have happened forty years ago. I mean, can you imagine Darth Vader being shadowed by a floating stroller? I think not. 

But these days nobody’s criticizing Mando for placing baby Yoda in the floating pram. So if Mando can use a stroller and still be macho, so can I. This is the Way.

The Dark Lord Colic, the Witching Hour, and a Strange Dream

It’s strange how life changes once you’re subjugated to a little bundle of joy. For one, your vocabulary expands. I’ve said the word fussy more times in two months of parenthood than I had in three-plus decades of a previous existence, an existence when the only he-who-shall-not-be-named was Lord Voldemort, when I lived blissfully unaware of the existence of the Dark Lord Colic. It’s not that I hadn’t heard the word colic before. I just confused it with cholera, a disease that modern medicine has mostly conquered. Thus, I didn’t spend much brain power pondering colic, believing health care professionals had everything under control. 

However, after Thomas set a high-water mark for tears, I studied up on the dreaded term colic. My wife asked me, “Do you think he’s got it? He’s been crying for over three hours.” Though I hated to admit it, the evidence was pointing in that direction–fed, burped, and diapered and he was still red-faced and screaming. 

I’ve since learned that, like the number of licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know what causes colic because doctors have thrown up their hands and given up on curing it. Now, they more or less give you a rain slicker and tell you to batten down the hatches. “It gets better,” they say, usually after week eight. And sure enough, it did. In fact, I wouldn’t consider Thomas a colicky baby. He had a collicky week in which neither pacifier, nor bottle, nor swing, nor rocking chair, nor sweet lullaby, nor pleading parent could separate him from the love of God-awful wailing. 

The Witching Hour

The witching hour, a colloquialism for the prefered hour in which a baby decides to go bonkers, usually started for Thomas around 5 pm. Thereafter, to hear Thomas tell it, he had more blues than B.B. King at a Memphis nightclub on a Friday night. He would wail away for hours, with us feeling as helpless as he actually was. And then, for reasons beyond our comprehension, he would just cease crying and then smile and act as happy as can be, as if he hadn’t just spent the last few hours practicing for the time in his life when he’ll have to pass a kidney stone. And then the next day, he would do it all over again. 

This lasted for a week, though it felt like a good forty days and forty nights of continuous outbursts. And then, for no perceivable reason, the skies cleared, a rainbow appeared, and a dove descended with an olive branch, metaphorically speaking. 

This week, in fact, I’ve actually gone from daydreaming about dreams to actually dreaming. Last night I had an old recurring dream: I was being chased by tornadoes again. Usually, I classify this dream, in which menacing twisters follow me in my rear-view mirror, as a nightmare, but this time I got out of the car and walked up to the tornadoes and gave them a big hug, like I was welcoming home some long lost friends. 

Is This a Picture of an 'Intense Supercell with a Mass of Tornadoes' in  Kansas?

Pavlov’s Dad and a Paranormal Baby

He’s here!–our new bundle of sleep deprivation in the old farmhouse. He goes by the name Thomas. He doesn’t really cry that much, except when others are trying to sleep, at which point he breaks into a chorus that sounds similar to, “Whaa! Whaa! Whaa! Your Boat!”

Welcome home, Thomas!

At this point, a week into his life, I suspect Thomas will grow up to be a famous psychologist because he’s already conducting a Pavlov’s dog-type experiment on his mom and dad. I now associate the sound of Thomas wailing with the act of laying my head on a pillow, so much so I begin to drool from exhaustion anytime I hear him cry. 

I’ve quickly learned a baby cry is a very effective sound. It’s a sound that demands action. The only problem, however, is I usually have no idea what the appropriate action is. I’ve asked Thomas to be more specific in his demands, but his method of specifying is only to cry louder. 

The hardened nurses at the hospital only taught us the straight-jacket method for dealing with a baby’s  uproarious demands. Basically, you treat your baby as if he’s a deranged criminal destined for Arkham Asylum and tightly wrap him in a blanket so he can’t move his arms or hands. The tight swaddle has bought us a few moments of respite at night, though Thomas is already growing proficient in Houdini-like feats of swaddle escape. 

Nurses Swaddle Straight-Jacket

Thomas can also perform another magic trick: making pacifiers disappear. I’m not sure how he does it, but he’s already lost two pacifiers. I can’t find them anywhere–it’s as if they just vanished into thin air. I’m starting to wonder if Thomas is in cahoots with aliens who are abducting his pacifiers. Or, now that I think of it, there’s probably a more likely explanation: the Bermuda Triangle that centers over our farm and makes quarter-inch wrenches and hammers routinely disappear also applies to pacifiers. In fact, his lost pacifiers are probably floating around right now in another dimension with my lost tools (for more lost tool jokes see my post How To Fix Stuff on a Farm). 

Anyway it’s good to know my brain can still think critically on such little sleep. I was starting to worry I was going a little loony, with the involuntary drool and all. I’d sure hate for Thomas to grow up thinking his dad was bonkers. 

Dad isn’t bonkers–he just looks that way.