My littlest baby turns 2 on Saturday. Which is just crazy – the time has flown ridiculously fast, and just as I got started carrying her and trying all the lovely new slings, she started to walk and was off – or so it seems. It seemed a good time to rethink how carrying works for babies who aren’t quite babies anymore – she likes to walk now, for sure….but my question is, is it always wise to let her? And is carrying purely about transportation anyway?
We went away this weekend on a last minute, last few days of school holiday, day out frenzy, and as I wandered around the aquarium yesterday I thought over all the times the carriers I had taken had been used over the two days we were away. It was a lot. More than even I had thought. And it illustrated to me how much (or how little) difference the child’s ability to walk actually made.
After our road trip, out first task was to find something to eat – and quickly, as the day was slipping away! We found ourselves in a shopping centre – a busy one – with shoppers all over the place, lights, fun, and confusion. Browsing our food options meant a good bit of wandering around and toddler pace was soon frustrating – up she went on my back in the mei tai and we tackled three sets of glass steps and an escalator before finding a place to eat. She stayed up whilst we were served and I carried a tray of drinks, then got down and had a wander around before we ate.
After dinner she stayed down, managing all the stairs with aplomb until we were yet again in a busy crowd being buffeted in all directions. She was knocked over once and I found myself picking her up off the floor, apologising to all who were tripping over us – and carrying her in my arms. So I put her on my back in the mei tai and we navigated out, and tackled a 20 minute walk through the city with some speed.
It was a museum visit we had planned – the Transport Museum – and she had a glorious time running around in train carriages, ‘driving’ cars and pushing flashing buttons – so exciting that by the time we had been there 90 minutes, she was diving round each corner out of sight, refusing to hold hands, and had developed a penchant for shutting doors.
After she barricaded herself into a replica of an old shop, closing doors that were not designed to close and holding them bodily shut (shouting no! Mine! Mine! In true toddler fashion) we were heading for meltdown and any in-arms holding resulted in her flinging herself to the floor shouting ‘down!’ I secured her on my back and she changed her shouting to ‘out! Out!’ (Although I wish she’d learn to say her T sounds as it sounds more like ‘Ow!’ Which is embarrassing in public! After ten minutes of a more sedate pace around the attraction, she had calmed down and was ready to walk around again herself.
She talked the twenty minute walk back to the hotel easily after that and enjoyed running around with her sister. We all wandered along holding hands and it was rather nice. We got all the way back to the car and emptied the bags to check in. I needed to make my way a few hundred yards back through a car park, across some busy roads and through the train station dragging a wheeled suitcase and carrying two shoulder bags. This is where the ring sling came out of the car – toddler slid in onto my hip, shoulder bags on the opposite shoulder, drag the suitcase and I had a free hand to hold my elder’s hand.
The ring sling didn’t come out again until after dinner in the restaurant – overtired toddlers are not known for their tact and this one took against the travel cot we had been provided with. After an hour of trying to get her to sleep in it, and her disturbing my older one and who knows who else in the hotel, I took her for a walk around the hotel corridors snuggled on my chest – and eventually – at midnight! – we had peace and quiet. This child is not one for sleeping in slings – she likes her own room and her own cot, which was why she was cross in the first place – but it was apparently less evil than the travel cot!
After her disturbed night, a full on day out was unlikely to be smooth sailing, and from the off she had a grumpy face on. We had planned a full day at The Deep in Hull – and straight out of the car she was nodding and sleepy. I packed her into a front carrying using the Neobulle – and very comfortable it was too, not that you would know from her expression!
The Deep is quite the structure, many floors, sets of steps, ramps and lifts winding round a central hub of a large submarium tank. Dark in most places, with narrow walkways. As claustrophobes, we don’t manage lifts well,l so the toddler stayed in the carrier up the six flights of steps that greeted us on entry. When she had adjusted to the darkness and realised there was fun to be had, all sleepiness fled and she asked to get down.
So she used her little legs round the attraction, launching happily at each new experience, learning new words and running about down the slopes and round the corners. Occasionally she needed a lift up to see better so I sat her in the carrier whilst we watched talks and feeding events, preventing her from escaping at knee levels through a stationary crowd. But no-one can go on forever, and three hours plus lunch later, she was clearly exhausted. With the option of a carrier, I loaded her in on the front and she drifted off to sleep. We did the whole attraction again from the top down at a more sedate pace for the elder one, not rushing from shiny button to flashy light.
The centrepiece of the attraction experience was a journey back up through the central tank – you can choose between a glass lift or the scenic stairs with full height viewing on each floor. For those unable to take the stairs, that meant either a very long wait for the exit lift as family after family queued – or bypassing the experience entirely and using the normal lift. We chose the stairs with our sleeping toddler and had them all to ourselves. I am so glad I did not have to make the choice of waking the toddler, waiting or skipping the experience, especially with an older one to disappoint. And what was waiting at the top of the scenic stairs? Six more flights down again!
On the journey home, we had a much happier little one – even so she struggles on longer trips, so we stopped in a truck stop style service station. Out came the ring sling again, seeing us across a busy car park until she could get down and stretch her legs – and then she won herself a teddy bear on a grabber machine and ate a banana, so all was right again in toddler land.
I thought about it, and realised that over the course of not even two days on our mini break away, I had used carriers many more times than even I would expect. I used them to get my hands back, I used them for her to sleep in, I used them for safety, for containment, to calm. I used them to navigate places tricky for little legs or wheels, for speed, for crowds. I carried her front and back and hip, at her request and despite her protestations. And yet she ran around until exhausted, she jumped on beds, she explored everything, pushed her buttons, played on exhibits, chased her sister and was chased back again. Carrying worked over and again for us all through the trip, comfortably and hands free. She really likes to walk. But it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be carried.