Babywearing can be such a serious subject with not a lot of humour surrounding it. The Sling Baby Diaries brings the humour of everyday babywearing to light and how humorously hard babywearing can be. Sometimes toddlers just don’t want to be carried, not because they don’t like it, well…just because. Carrying can be akin to wrapping a writhing snake with the ability to flap like a bird and the skills of a master escape artist like Houdini to boot. I promise you that you will laugh til you cry at this account of one mum’s daily struggles with a willful toddler.
Sling baby has hit what I believe is known as a ‘wrapping strike’. This is not a wholly accurate term to describe her case, though, as she has also at the same time hit a being-strapped-into-the-highchair-and-car-seat-strike, a refraining-from-lying-on-the-dirty-floor-of-the-Co-op-and-screeching-strike, and a stopping-poking-strangers-on-the-crowded-train-in-the-bottom-with-a-breadstick-despite-strong-encouragement-not-to-strike. In other words – and there’s no point in pretending – she has reached the Terrible Twos three months early, and in direct contradiction to what I am pretty sure I was promised in at least one AP book about her being ‘quite likely to skip this stage altogether’.
Sometimes, when she’s tired and feeling in particular need of cuddles, she will consent to going up in a quick ruck, and has once or twice actually fetched our Dream Carrier full buckle and, with the air of one conveying a kindly favour, allowed me to carry her in it for a while. These occasions though are at present rare. She will have no truck with the complexities of multilayer carries, having particularly renounced the Back Wrap Cross Carry and all its works (which in my case includes a good deal of flapping around like a wounded seagull, so I can’t honestly blame her).
Ring slings are still just about acceptable to her new-found independence. I think this is because they are so quick to put on, and also quite easy to escape from. I am pretty much on board with this, too, as picking up a wailing, thrashing toddler who looks like she is re-enacting moves from one of those street dance movies on fast-forward, and trying to pop her into a pretty little ring sling generally draws less disapproving attention in our provincial city than wrestling one onto your back while waving several metres of rainbow fabric around your head. I know this from experience.
After the freedom of the relatively safe sling meet venue this morning, though, Slingbaby was reluctant even to go back up in the ring sling, away from the attractions of city centre traffic. If, at about 1.30pm this afternoon, wherever in the UK you were, you thought you heard a faint voice crying ‘NOOOOOOO,’ that would have been Sling baby, expressing her frustration at being confined to a sling instead of getting on with her planned business of jaywalking. For a small and angelic-looking person, she is breathtakingly loud (people all around us stopped what they were doing to watch with interest; dogs barked; old ladies tutted; small birds fell from the sky). It took a good ten minutes of proper, full-volume, flat on the pavement tantrumming engaged with all the empathy I could muster (‘You’re feeling really angry because you so wanted to run in and out of the bus lane…’) to finally get her snuggled in again with her head tucked into my neck. I am getting skilled at leaving places without meeting anyone’s eye.
After that, of course, I ought to have made a dash for the carpark and counted my blessings; but I am desperate to find her some canvas shoes that aren’t bubblegum pink and glittery and, having had little success with the usual shoe shops, I decided to chance a quick visit to Next.
It was crowded and very hot. I am not an overly confident person and, unless I have prepared myself, can feel a bit like a self-conscious bag lady in all the gleaming slick smartness that is Next. By the time we reached the counter, Slingbaby was hanging upside-down over the back of the ring sling yelling ‘OUT! OUUUT!’ with me holding onto her legs.
The way she pronounces ‘OUT’, makes it sound as though she is actually saying ‘OW’, so that I found myself facing concerned-looking staff with nice make-up and very neat hair (them), sweaty and dishevelled from stress and baby-wrestling (me), dangling a baby who was apparently yelling in pain by her legs from some strange hippy contraption that neither they, nor any of the 147 other people now watching, had ever seen in any of the nice, sensible parenting shops like Mothercare.
Letting her out of the sling didn’t feel like an option with so many people pressing around – she’d be out of sight in a heartbeat and my over-anxious parent auto-pilot was terrified of somebody running off with her (helpful hint: if like me you have the remnants of post-natal anxiety, do not read The Child in Time by Ian McEwan. If you already have, you will know what I mean). Once again, avoiding catching people’s eyes like I was in training for it as an Olympic sport, I headed straight for the exit, which felt a lot further away than it had when we came in.
I think it may be time to consider a buggy.
Today after much research and some soul-searching, I bought online a second-hand Njoy Bubble, a lightweight umbrella stroller that can parent-face, to supplement slings for the times when Slingbaby does not want to be carried. It felt like an admission of failure, after near-exclusive carrying for almost two years since discovering babywearing when Slingbaby was six weeks old (not counting the occasional trip to the local shop in the pram when I was ill or tired – often forgetting until halfway round that the shopping basket underneath was being used to store old shoes).
I know lots of people use both slings and pushchairs regularly and I’ve never for a moment thought that anybody shouldn’t. But I love babywearing and have felt passionate about carrying my child close to me for as long as possible. However, our daughter has made it pretty clear that she doesn’t want to be carried very often at present, and it feels out of keeping with the values attached to babywearing not to respect that. Also, physically fairly impossible, given the thrashyness of expression of that reluctance.
So we pick up our emblem of disloyalty to the babywearing cause tomorrow. It is quite shiny.
Went by bus and ring sling to pick up our very nearly new, bus-friendly, lightweight, AP-ish, umbrella-fold, parent-facing stroller. Feeling a little emotional, I helped Slingbaby climb into it and fastened the harness.
If, at about 11.30am this morning, wherever in the UK you were, you thought you heard a faint voice screeching ’OW! OW! OWWW!’ that would have been Sling baby, hanging sideways out of quite an expensive stroller by the legs and requesting to be released.
Footnote: she has since decided that she quite likes the buggy and also that she will tolerate half-buckles, so long as I don’t faff around spreading the passes for too long.
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