I don’t know which to be more annoyed with. Internet trolls who have nothing better to do than taunt their friends online or young punks with an overinflated sense of self entitlement. Case in point? The author of this article:
Really? Overuse of prams? Distressing social ill?
Let’s face it. Nobody likes to leave home lugging a tonne of things, especially not when it’s just a day out. Parents are no exception. However parents, unlike people without kids, are simply not able to take children for a trip to the store without any form of mobility planning.
The kid weighs between 3 to 20 kg on average, sometimes more. A pram can carry up to a weight of 25 kg. A diaper bag typically weighs between 7 to 10 kg after packing in several diapers, dry napkins, diaper cream, wet wipes, milk or milk powder, thermo flask (for food or water), milk bottles, breastfeeding shield, sometimes a small breast pump and a change of clothes.
Question: Do I bring a pram?
The first thing I’d consider is whether we’ll be doing a whole lot of walking today and if yes, we should. I mean, it would be plain stupidity to insist on carrying a 12 kg toddler in a carrier and toting a 10 kg diaper bag for a 6-8 hours long trip. And I haven’t got started on the weight of the items that I’ve planned to buy in one fell swoop during the trip. If I’m expected to carry all that, plus the baby, plus the diaper bag for 6 hours straight, I might as be booking myself a spine transplant.
So, we hit the mall. I soon realize that my baby is very much unlike the baby dolls my cousins and I used to play with as kids. Those baby dolls keep quiet, lie still and continue looking pretty, even if their limbs are torn out by very strong 3-year-old hands. They don’t even wince when you snip their locks off with a pair of scissors.
Real babies, however, get hungry as often as every 3 hours. They poop. They barf. They startle at sudden loud noises. They fuss when they are teething. They get irritated when too many strangers try to pinch their cheeks. And all that may happen several times in a day. Without prompt parental intervention, their faces proceed to turn purple and they produce screams that would send a herd of elephants packing. This then attracts a flurry of unsolicited advice from people who’ve only known her for a grand total of 2 seconds, judgmental stares, photographs or videos taken without consent (for uploading of course), Facebook rants and articles in the like of the above.
I’m not sure about you, but I think life is too short for all that drama and so like what most parents do, I pick the baby OUT of the pram to soothe, change or feed her. I hope that answers your question about prams with no baby within. I’m basically telling you there is no way I can guarantee my baby stays in the pram at all times, unless I wear my breastfeeding shield backwards and bend over the pram to feed her.
When I pick the baby up and leave the pram empty, would it now not make every logical sense to unload that 10kg diaper bag off from my shoulders and onto the pram which is lying empty anyway? Let’s go back to the story of the man, the son and their donkey:
The most intelligent thing to do is to use the donkey. If not to carry people, then to carry some sort of a burden! It would be quite silly if I ended up folding up the pram (my ‘donkey’) and carrying it, toting my baby, the diaper bag and shopping at the same time, every time I pick the baby up.
One thing I couldn’t figure out was this: You’re upset to see a kid sitting in the pram. You’re also upset at kids running outside the pram. Where else did you want my kid to go? In my pocket?
Let’s move on to kids who can already walk. Like from 3 years on. Now I am well aware that I don’t have the right to set age guidelines for pram usage for other parents because seriously, it’s their kids; not mine. I can only say for myself as a parent that I can’t ignore a fact that childless people sometimes do: A baby or toddler is still a human being.
Imagine sitting in a car seat for 30 minutes (commute), and then in a pram for 2 hours (shopping), in a high chair for a 1.5 hour (lunch), then on the pram again for another 3 hours (shopping) and another 30 minutes in the car seat (commute) until you get home. An average adult subject to this routine on a regular basis would have developed deep vein thrombosis by now. So what’s wrong with letting a toddler run free when I chance upon safe open space? And while the toddler is out of the pram, what kind of distress am I causing to anyone by putting my bag in the pram and leaving a smaller carbon footprint by way of lowered physical exertion?
Well, you say, I could always let my kid walk around WITHOUT a pram as soon as she knows how to walk. After all, that’s what your parents let you do when you were 3 years old right? Now let’s see. When I was 3 years old, Singapore’s population was only about 2.6 million and the largest shopping malls were about the size of a supermarket. Today, it’s a whooping 5.4 million, not including the enthusiatic excited tourists that contribute to the weekend human throngs in our malls. The size of the malls today have become huge, sprawling spaces that are linked to one another or the MRT station, and packed with people to the brim. That’s a big difference from when you were 3. Your parents probably let you run around freely because they knew they could keep you in sight and are confident of catching up with you should you run into any danger. I would have done the same today if I were living overseas where there’s plenty of safe open spaces. In Singapore, common sense and responsibility tells me that I should only let my kid run free when I see pockets of less densely saturated spaces. The rest of the time, the safest place would be (guess where?) in the pram. Allow me to illustrate my point further with a jar of stones:
So imagine the stones are all adults thronging a shopping mall. Now let’s put some sand (representing the kid who is smaller in size) and 2 stones (her parents) into that same jar. Everybody knows that with minimal shaking, the sand sifts right through to the bottom while the stones would probably only move about 1cm downwards. This means that if I were to allow my toddler to run free in a packed mall or park, she’d be able to sift past crowds faster than I could catch up or keep her in sight. Then I’d be helplessly and anxiously waiting for a public announcement of a child that has been found. Which would again, I’m afraid, invoke the ire of (mostly childless) shoppers, wondering aloud why a parent could be so irresponsible as to lose their beloved child.
So no, I don’t think I want to put myself through all that angst. I would not trawl through a crowded mall without a pram if I know I won’t be able to keep an eye on my kid the whole time. Not when she hasn’t learnt to say her mummy’s name and phone number. Not when she thinks grabbing automatic glass doors, deep water features and moving escalators are fun. Not when she might potentially sweep an entire shelf clean of expensive fragile crockery in a shop. And especially not when she would be bumping into more legs and offending more people than my pram would. I’ll be responsible for my own baby’s safety by keeping her on the pram until she learns self restraint and reasoning, thank you very much.
The same story goes if my baby should require a nap. My toddler currently weighs 12 kg and I’m not about to walk around with her in my arms for a couple of hours when I know she’d be more comfortable lying down in a pram, her only makeshift respite from all the hustle and noise outside.
I suppose one day you might, like many of us, have to buy your very first pram. If you do walk past a baby supplies store, take a quick glance at the number of different prams lined up inside, and you’ll soon realize that it is a very difficult choice to make. Especially for first time parents who want the best for the child but yet are unsure of what makes the most practical sense. And so they settle on this one: A decent looking one with all the ‘bells and whistles’ they were made to believe they need. The pram turns up in mail and ooops, they realize that it’s too big. But it’s too late, you see. The returning process is usually very difficult for such items. So they grit their teeth and continue using it while the baby is small. Or buy a smaller one after the baby grows bigger. So don’t fault new parents for buying a larger than life pram for their kids. They are new. They didn’t know better. They are still learning how to park a pram in the least obstructive way. And they only wanted to get the best they could afford, to ensure their kid’s comfort. I’m pretty sure your own parents would have done the same for you, if you were born today.
If you’ve seen prams in lifts, then you must have seen many more helpless parents perching their prams precariously on an escalator step. That’s because more often than not, the entire lift was filled with people who were more than able to use the escalator and none would be so considerate as to step out and let a pram in. Or worse still, they were all waiting for the lift and the able-bodied ones have simply squeezed past them and beaten them to it. Without any contrition. Even if they came AFTER the people with prams who were already waiting. Like they are entitled to it since they took up less space. Well I guess that now leaves the parents wishing to be imbued with almost-superhuman reserves of energy – to carry a pram, diaper bag, baby and shopping up several flights of steps to the carpark or balance the load as it moves down the escalator.
Might I also remind you that lifts in low-level buildings such as malls were built for the purpose of serving people who find difficulty moving up and down escalators and steps. That includes people using prams. Just ask the friendly staff at the MRT station and they’d be more than happy to enlighten you. They were not installed for people who gripe just because they can’t squeeze their sorry behinds into a lift occupied by people who needed it more than them. I have a piece of advice for you, my able-bodied un-mollycoddled friend who is capable of walking on your own two legs: Next time the lift doors open with a pram filling it, cheer up and remember that on average, the incidence of pram users hogging lifts is way lower than than that of unmarried youngsters hogging tables in a hipster cafe while a family waits helplessly with a hungry kid in tow. Take a walk to the nearest escalator or staircase and get used to using your limbs as they were intended to. And I promise not to complain when you walk on ramps meant for people on wheels when you should have taken the steps.
By the way, your friend was spot-on about parents turning up in school with a pram to fetch their kids. Because I am one of them. I know not about the boundless energy with which my child ran and climbed in the day, but one thing I do know. I want my baby to get home safely. And the best way I know how, is to keep her in a pram as I cross the busy roads on the way back home. Not holding her with one hand, grocery bags on the other hand and work and school bags on my shoulder, hampering my speedy response should she pull away from my hand and run into the road like this toddler:
I am sorry that you got offended because your friend’s foot was run over by an unapologetic pram user. I have done the same before, mostly to people who suddenly stopped in a one-lane one-direction path. And also people who slowed down to check their phones or talk to friends right after stepping off an escalator when there’s a long packed line of people behind me. With no apology, I’d rather mow across one foot than risk causing injury to the line of people behind me. I am sorry if your friend truly should have gotten an apology, but let me point out that inasmuch as unreasonably irate parents exist, so do nonchalant inconsiderate singles.
The next time you wish to broach the topic of graciousness and sensitivity, think about whether it was a gracious act in the first place to label parents with prams as “pesky perambulators” and their children as ‘fully grown invalids”, among the kaleidoscope of colourful words which you used in your article… words that you are probably congratulating yourself for using as the entire nation reads your writing today.
Go a mile in the shoes of others. Recognize that our country is getting more crowded even as we breathe and be reminded that while you’re entitled to your space, it doesn’t mean others are less entitled to it than you are.
If you wish to heighten awareness for social courtesy then do it with some class and in a more respectful manner. Let your choice of words invoke reflection rather than seek to impress.
That, is the true examplification of graciousness and sensitivity.
The Pesky Perambulator
**The editor of the papers has since added this disclaimer to the article 1 day after its publication:
“The Straits Times policy is to publish a variety of views, so long as an opinion isn’t rude, distasteful and contrary to public order.
Mr Lee’s article was clearly not anything of that sort.
Nor did it detract from our long-standing position as a pro-family newspaper.
We are happy to run views that disagree with those of our writers if they add to the discussion on the topic.”
Dear Editor, I hope this does not mean that it is now alright to walk up to your child and call him a fully grown invalid since you do not consider it rudeness.