When my daughter Hannah was a preschooler I marked every birthday with a new responsibility. It’s a reasonably popular parenting technique, in which you try to convince your kid that they’re big now, so they get to do Something! Fun!. Really, though, you’re trying to trick them into finally doing that thing you’ve been trying to convince them to do for the past six months. If you haven’t used it yourself, it goes something like this: You’re four! You’re a big kid now and you get to go to sleep / use the big toilet / put your toys away all by yourself! Yay! I told Hannah that in our house, five year olds get dressed by themselves, four year olds wipe their own bums and three year olds walk, they don’t ride in the stroller.
My son Jacob turned three years old just over a month ago. If I were being fair, I would have kicked him out of the stroller on his birthday. I was more or less planning on it, and even went so far as to unfold the stroller so that I could clean it before I put it in storage, but then I had second thoughts about the whole thing. Perhaps it’s because Jacob’s currently my last baby, and so I’m clinging to his infancy with all I have. It could be. But there are also some key differences between our family situation on Jacob’s third birthday and our family situation on Hannah’s third birthday.
Hannah, in her stroller-riding days
Reasons I Kicked Hannah Out of the Stroller at Three
- I was three months pregnant, and I planned to use the stroller for the new baby. I wanted a time buffer between the time that Hannah stopped using it, and the time that the new baby started.
- Hannah wouldn’t really ride in the stroller for long stretches of time anyway.
- We rarely walked anywhere, because trying to walk somewhere with an uncooperative three year old is Not Fun.
One year old Jacob visiting the Vancouver Farmers Market in his stroller
Reasons I am not Kicking Jacob Out of the Stroller at Three
- I am not currently pregnant, and I have no immediate plans to change that.
- At least four times every week Jacob comes along on the walk up to Hannah’s school for pick-up or drop-off. We are nearly always in a rush, and he’s not exactly good at walking quickly and with purpose.
- On the walk to school and back I have two kids and a whole bunch of stuff. If I strap Jacob into the stroller and stow the stuff in the stroller’s basket the trip goes much more smoothly than if I’m trying to keep a three year old safe around traffic while I’m also overloaded with Hannah’s schoolwork / water bottle / money for the pizza day.
Jacob, yesterday, peaking out from under the stroller’s sunshade
There was a time when I had very strong opinions on the appropriate age for a child to ride in a stroller. It probably goes without saying that this time was back in the days before I had children. When I would see a three, four or five year old (or, more likely, a kid who just looked three, four or five) being pushed around I would cluck my tongue and say things like, “You never saw kids that big riding in strollers when we were young.” As if the 1980s was the Golden Age of Good Parenting.
Now I have two kids of my own, and practical considerations to take into account, and I know that sometimes life is not so simple. So you make the best of things and push your three year old around in a stroller. It works for me right now, so I’m sticking with it for the time being.
What about you? How old were your kids when they stopped using the stroller? And did you find that your standards changed from child-to-child? I’d love to hear!