18 Feb 2012

Hanging on to My Kid

Ice path in Winnipeg
If you are depressed in the winter time in Winnipeg, my best suggestion has always been to bundle up your kids and head outside onto the city's two frozen rivers at the Forks. Many days lately have been sparkling, sunny, and even somewhat warm.

It often seems like a great effort to get going and make it out with little ones in the winter. I feed Jacob and change him right before leaving and then hope that he'll be happy enough during our adventures to hang on until we get back home. I strap him into my cloth carrier, put my gigantic winter coat over both of us, leash up the dog, and off we go for our walk. Down on the river path we amuse ourselves by watching kids skate past - some of them are toddlers who are sliding along for the first time, doing little more than a funny-looking shuffly walk while others are macho teens rocketing up and down the river despite gaping cracks and holes in the ice. Jacob smiles at the border collie dogs who zip by pulling their owners on cross-country skis. Everyone out there seems to be laughing and we almost always stop to talk to someone we know. Winnipeg is a small town.

Sometimes we see something truly bizarre. A few weeks ago, Jacob and I crossed paths with a man and a woman, skating cautiously, holding their infant in a car seat between them. Now, I don't even like to walk that way, but skating, carrying a bucket seat? Really?

I had to say something. "Well, that's an interesting way to do it. Looks like you're having fun."

"Yeah, we don't have a stroller yet but we really wanted to get out."

I replied, "I tried to skate with this little guy on the path in a stroller but he would have none of it. He wanted to be held."

The man explained to me, "Oh, we've been very careful since the beginning to not let ours get used to being held. I mean, that would be like being in prison - he'd want it all the time."

I think I stared blankly for a moment and then wished them a lovely afternoon. When we North Americans don't want to be "tied" to our babies, we tie them down instead to an unending variety of inanimate devices. We strap them into car seats (whether or not we are driving anywhere), strollers, bouncy seats, jolly jumpers, and excersaucers and shut them up in cribs, bassinets and playpens. All this to avoid an adult human holding a human baby, because that would be nothing less than incarceration.

And yet I feel the opposite of a loss of freedom when I'm holding Jacob. With him snuggled up against my chest I know that I can comfort and protect him against anything, and this makes me feel safe. All I can say is that at least everyone in that family I met was outside enjoying the sun's rays and their promise of spring to come.


  1. Found you via a reddit link and just wanted to add my 2 cents. I was just at an exhausting conference for 4 days, but was lucky enough to bring my child with me. At the end of every long day, all I wanted to do was to be with him and get some fresh air so, I'd wrap him on my back and away we'd go. I never knew that baby wearing could be so therapeutic! I absolutely love it and can't imagine not having this closeness (literally) with my child.

  2. I feel terrible for people who see being in contact with their children as a prison sentence. I am a transman who wants to have kids, and while I don't have my own yet my boyfriend's son (he's 4) is an amazing part of my life. Spending time with him, close with him, is not a chore for me. It is a pleasure, and I am all too aware of how soon it will be before he doesn't want to cuddle on the couch anymore. I cannot understand how anyone would want that drive for physical contact to end any sooner than it has to. They'll be teens soon enough, no need to rush it!

    1. Wow! So nice to hear from a fellow trans guy. Yeah, I agree that those early years are really precious. Having a child has changed my priorities in life tremendously, and I have no intention of fighting that - I'm enjoying it so much. Good luck in your parenting journeys!

  3. Oh I'm so glad you said this - I feel exactly the same!! Number two (now nearly 10 months) has only been in a pushchair twice (once when I had whiplash) - she is exclusively worn and I love it. People don't get it sometimes and ask whether I ever get 'a break from her'. Well, I get 'a break' to do the housework when she's worn. I get 'a break' to go to the park with my two year old and have both my hands free without leaving her stranded in a pram.

    I LOVE being tied to my child; it connects us both in a way that strapping her into an 'inanimate device' never could. I love it so much I've even set up my own company making carriers!

    I totally agree with the above comments - there is no need to rush it. They grow up so fast!

    1. Neat! What kind of carriers do you make? I'm amassing quite a collection... ;)

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