Right now one of the most-read stories on Salon is an interview with Laura Miller, creator of Too Big For Stroller. She catalogs photos of kids who look way too old to be in strollers, rolling through life with their toes dragging on the pavement. I couldn't see the site — it's probably overloaded by the attention right now — but thanks to the picture on the Salon piece, I got the idea. I uttered a half-laugh, but then I stopped. Sure, it's a funny visual, and yes, there are some ridiculous-sounding stories, like the one Miller relates about a girl who got up out of her stroller, carried it onto the escalator, then climbed back into it at the bottom.
But there are two reasons I can't merrily click through the site. For one, judging parents for how they raise their children is extremely tricky territory. Dig into discussions about everything from pacifiers and breastfeeding to sex ed and teenage drinking, and see if you don't find your assumptions challenged.
Even more poignantly than that, however, I remembered this piece Amy Corbett Storch wrote for The Stir last year. In it, she remembers the only time she went off on a total stranger... A stranger who followed her through a store parking lot, repeatedly remarking about how her son, Noah — who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), developmental dyspraxia, expressive language delays and synesthesia — was too big and too old for his stroller.
Noah was about 3 1/2 but was going through a rough stretch where he'd run away from us. All. The. Time. Honestly, it's something a lot of kids will do at that age. But Noah had absolutely no sense of danger. He also couldn't interpret tone and facial expressions, so he couldn't distinguish between a game of chase and our terrified, angry cries in a parking lot. Upping the ante was the fact that if he DID get seriously lost, he didn't have the verbal skills to answer basic questions about himself or us. I wrote his name and our phone numbers in all his clothes. I also kept his butt strapped safely into a stroller whenever possible.
Basically, it comes down to "you don't know my life." To her credit, Miller points out she takes care not to include kids with physical disabilities. But there's so much you can't see in a picture. So laughing at big kids in strollers,-- and their parents — because things look a little ridiculous just doesn't sit well with me. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.