A group of 'seasoned' women, myself included, were bantering around the topic of how newborn babies today end up with more clothing and furniture than those of us talking about it. To be fair, the conversation took place at a baby shower where the mom-to-be had just been, well, showered with more clothing and "stuff."
Quick to rise in the conversation was the strange fact that today's babies are constantly surrounded by large, impenetrable chunks of plastic that have been molded into a variety of things like swings, strollers, car seats, bouncers, even cribs, and then certified by testing that includes throwing them off a cliff, running over them with a tank, and strapping them to the space shuttle.
Okay, so I exaggerated a bit about the cliff part. But the point is, today's babies are a whole lot safer than their mommas were, and a lot more comfortable. Take their strollers, for instance. Well, actually their "Travel System." Strollers don't exist any more in the world of baby conveyance.
A Travel System is a stroller-type thing and a car seat that take up just slightly less room than a small car. The car seat can convert from something that will hold your newborn to something that will hold your toddler to something that will hold your teenager if he has enough confidence. The car seat conveniently fits into the stroller thing which also converts from a stroller to a buggy to a fold out motor home for weekend excursions.
Okay, so I exaggerated about the motor home part, but just a little. These systems have everything from double wheels, adjustable handles and shock absorbers to canopies, storage areas and cup holders for multiple cups. Purchasing one is like buying a car. You walk into the baby stuff store and when you hit the Travel System corner, fasten your seat belt. There must be two dozen models sitting there, just waiting for a pregnant woman to wheel them up and down the aisle for a test run.
I watched a young mom-to-be trying them out as she strolled all two dozen about the store and eventually eliminated them all. Too heavy, too light, wrong color, bad wheels, awkward handle, not enough storage space, and so on. Like selecting a car, if there are that many choices for what is going to be a major purchase, a young mom might as well be perfectly pleased with what she selects. The downside of taking too long to decide is that she's up against a pretty unforgiving deadline.
I thought about all that one recent evening when my family decided, after Sunday dinner, that a stroll around the block might bring us out of our food-induced lethargy. Amongst the group was a toddler, so I rummaged around in my coat closet and brought out the family's former "Travel System" -- an umbrella stroller.
For the uninitiated, an umbrella stroller is a collapsible metal and cloth thing that folds up into something just slightly larger than an umbrella, and unfolds to carry kids. We unfolded it, dusted it off, strapped the little one in, and took off. Our kids took turns wheeling her along in this conveyance that once wheeled them.
My husband and I sauntered along at the rear of the straggling group, watching them trailing along, clustered around the little one. He turned to me and asked, "Isn't that the stroller we raised the kids in?"
Yeah, it is, I told him. I thought about holding a baby in one arm and popping that lightweight thing apart in a heartbeat with the other hand. I remembered the convenience of tossing it in the car under the feet of the kids when I needed trunk space. I pondered how it'd been stored it in the back corner of the closet next to the umbrellas and the vacuum cleaner.
It made me wonder: Are today's Travel Systems really an improvement over yesterday's?
Well, sure. They have cup holders.
You may contact D. Louise Brown at email@example.com or by calling her editor at 801-625-4223.