A few weeks ago I wrote a list of baby essentials for a local magazine. There weren’t that many I could think of. Most of what we had was at the simpler, cheaper end of the spectrum, usually bought second hand. It’s just as well, really, that we didn’t invest in more serious pieces of kit, since all three of our babies adopted an attitude to being comforted and cared for which relied heavily on parental elbow grease. Why settle for a baby bouncer, when daddy could be marching you up and down stairs instead? Why accept a dummy (or indeed a bottle), when there’s a perfectly good warm mummy on hand? Why agree to lie on a playmat, when grown ups or siblings could provide endless tailored entertainment?
You get the picture. In any case, those days are long gone, and seem to have done none of us much damage (despite the wail-inducing sense of frustration at the time that I would Never Get Anything Done Ever Again).
And so, other than the two of us, the essentials (and otherwise) have gradually been jettisoned over the years: sold, passed on, or in the case of those random nameless pieces of plastic tat which babies seem to generate like laundry, guiltily clogging up landfill somewhere.
All we’re left with is the nursery furniture which has done all three (a more incongruous sight than a sturdy, battle obsessed little boy cuddling down in a cotbed amidst pictures of Peter Rabbit would be hard to find) and my beloved buggy.
Bought eight years ago for a then six month old No1, it’s been in constant use ever since. It’s outlived the travel system, the double pushchair, the bargain eBay Bugaboo. It’s been on planes, in snow, through cities and dragged backwards along muddy country paths. It’s seeing out its days in no easy retirement, trudging the school run twice a day laden, to the disgusted glances of onlookers, with a three year old bigger than half of Reception. I’ve done my fair share of smugging in my time, so I can’t really complain, but I am tempted to get a badge explaining that 1.5 miles in just under half an hour is a lot for even the most precociously long-legged preschooler (or, perhaps, one which just states I Am 3).
It’s not the smartest piece of equipment. It suffers the indignity of being tricked out with lunch bags and rucksacks and sticks and rolled up not-quite-dry paintings, like some postmodern art installation. The wheels creak and squeak and stick. The plastic on the handles is perishing, peeling and bobbling in rain and leaving small unpleasant scraps of rubber all over my hands and coat. The hood is broken and lopsided whenever I put it up; on the rare occasion that No3′s deigns to take a nap, one side reclines more than the other, and he’s shunted over to the left.
It’s days are numbered. By the end of the term, we’ve agreed, No3 will need to be walking or scooting. Hopefully it will last that long; there are days when it seems ready to lay down in the path and ask to be sent to the pushchair equivalent of the knackers’ yard.
No3 is almost ready to make his own way around. But I’ll miss my pushchair days, I realised this morning. I’ll miss the something to hang onto on ice or bad bone days. I’ll miss the easy convenience of somewhere to store the daily baggage, somewhere to stow a grumpy small child, a means to muster and corral them all in public. The need is almost gone…but I think I’ll miss that most of all.