As I mentioned before, I am trying to work on my dialogue-writing skills. I asked for suggested scenarios. Painted Maypole suggested a lunch conversation between friends.
“We try to minimize the time our kids spend in the stroller.”
“Really,” Clarabelle said. “Why is that?”
Annie took a generous sip of her Diet Coke. “Oh, that’s just something we’re committed to as parents.”
Clarabelle glanced at her friend for a moment. She had two choices here. She could smile halfway, hand Walter a roll, and change the subject. Or, she could take the bait. She took the bait. She almost couldn’t help herself.
“But, why? Why would you want to limit their time in the stroller?”
“It’s just how we’ve decided to raise them,” Annie replied. “Our values.”
Clarabelle and her husband owned three strollers at this point. There was the little umbrella stroller, which they kept folded in the trunk of the car for visits to relatives or occasional trips to the mall. It didn’t get much use because proximity to the mall made Clarabelle start itching all around her neck. They had originally planned on using only this one stroller, but it had certain significant drawbacks. The wheels were small, catching on the broken neighborhood sidewalks, and there was no tray, so Walter, who preferred his vegetable al fresco, had no place to put his broccoli as they made their way through town. And—by far the biggest drawback—the basket was tiny. Really, you could fit just the rain cover and a few diapers. There was no space for groceries.
Hence, the second stroller. This one had larger wheels and a giant basket underneath. It suited their lifestyle perfectly. It was heavy as the dickens, but since they spent so little time in the car, it never got folded or taken anywhere. Clarabelle would load Walter into the stroller after breakfast, tucking cups and various forms of produce into the handlebar area, and head out for the morning. Throughout the morning, she would scatter slices of apple or chunks of sweet potato on the tray in front of him; in his preoccupation with the passing cars and approaching dogs, he never noticed he was consuming foods he usually tossed onto the kitchen floor. They would go to the playground, stop to pet various forms of canine, and return books to the library. Along the way, Clarabelle would get muffins at the bakery, pop into the post office, and load up on groceries. By the time they got home for lunch, the basket had put in a good morning’s work.
The third stroller, a second hand jogger they had bought from the neighbor for $10, was pretty much useless in terms of dropping off the dry cleaning because it had no basket, but it came in handy during heavy snows. Even inclement weather did nothing to break their stroller habit. So, Clarabelle was really confused. Why would someone intentionally limit such a benign activity?
“But why?” she asked. “What’s wrong with the stroller?”
“Nothing,” her friend reassured her. Annie was half talking to Clarabelle, half trying to keep Kimmy from dipping her fingers into the remains of her Caesar salad. “If that’s how you choose to raise your children.” Annie began wiping butter out of her daughter’s hair. “It’s just not what we want for our kids.”
Clarabelle was approaching somewhere between defensive and panicked. Was there something really wrong with the stroller? Had she missed some crucial piece of medical research explaining that more then 20 minutes a day of stroller time would lead to dandruff and halitosis in later life? Should Walter be walking everywhere on his own? This would really present a problem, as he couldn’t even walk across the kitchen on his own yet.
“But WHY?” Clarabelle asked, in exasperation.
Annie looked at her friend kindly, clearly hesitant to break the news to someone so naïve to the subtleties of proper child rearing. “Strollers create a gap between parent and child,” she told her friend. “They break the bond and stymie attachment. We try to wear our children wherever we go.”
“Doesn’t that hurt after while?” Clarabelle asked.
“Oh, not for us. We’re used to it.” Annie fished through her wallet, pulling out a few bills and handing them to the waiter.
As the friends said goodbye at the curb, Annie turned to unlock her mini-van door. “Do you want a ride?” she asked, as she strapped Kimmy into her car seat. Clarabelle had Bulky Stroller number two with her, but there was plenty of room in the back for it.
“Oh, I prefer to walk,” replied Clarabelle. “It’s just something I’m committed to as a parent.”