"You don't have to get mowed down by a double-wide stroller on a city sidewalk to know we're in the middle of a twin epidemic."
-Sarah Elizabeth Richards, Time, April 16, 2014
This line came from a story entitled "The Problem with the Twin Epidemic," which was packed with similar zingers. I can't even begin to express the bewilderment and offense I take at someone referring to my beloved twins as part of an "epidemic" -- likening them to viral illness -- so for the moment, I'll address the much smaller issue of this writer taking a dig at my double stroller.
Does the author of the Time article think a twin mom should just stay home, in a tear-soaked robe amidst scattered toys, so that she, the writer, can race unimpeded in and out of Starbucks? Does the author think I should carry my twin boys, 30 pounds each, whenever we go out?
To some extent, I get it. I used to shrink at the approach of double strollers, an instinctive reaction to a large, incoming object. I understand there's an irrational response to their heft, and a petty irritation that they take up so much space. There was a time those doublewide baby conveyers perfectly embodied some of my own fears about motherhood: lack of freedom, mobility and ease. That's how it seemed in my 20s and early 30s.
Fast forward to my 40th birthday. Home after the birth of my twins, I wondered if we would ever again leave the house, and if so, how? It turned out the double stroller isn't the end of freedom, mobility and ease. Instead, it's the means to those rewards.
My double stroller, cleverly branded a "mini," was as life-changing and liberating to me at 40 as car keys were at 16. Fate has deemed that I am now the one awkwardly maneuvering in a store aisle or negotiating the sidewalk stream, and occasionally I see people like this former version of myself -- people startled by my gear, or people like that writer at Time, with their strangely hostile biases against my only option for mobility.
Of course, the vast majority of my encounters in public are marked by kindness. Men and women of all ages make space for my double stroller and smile at my sons. To these understanding citizens, I say thank you. You've been known to make my day. Others, though, have paused to scowl -- and even, once or twice, cluck -- at the sheer horror of having to behold my stroller.
Maybe that Time writer really did get mowed down by some woman pushing a double stroller. If so, I'm sorry that happened, and I'll bet that mom felt bad, too. Who knows? Maybe she was desperate to get to a bathroom, a diaper station, or home, where any part of her trio could safely have a meltdown.
Let me share how much I love my double stroller. It was the biggest ticket item on my baby shower registry, and my mother plucked it up as the gift of choice that is still giving. So first of all, it's a piece of grandma. My husband Ken nicknamed it The Chariot, but it's more like a peacetime Battlestar, moving slowly through space with my curious explorer toddlers, loaded with everything we need: diapers, wipes, hats, sunblock, sweatpants, trains.
It's also full of stuff we don't actually need, a mini-landfill of snack packaging, and a mysterious accumulation of random treasure. I can dig in the undercarriage, arm plunged in up to the shoulder, and fish out unexpected items. A dinosaur! An energy bar! A black sweater!
The walks I take with my kids are glorious and intimate, a chance to be with both boys, perhaps doing something exotic like standing in a café, coffee in hand. Now that my sons walk, run and leap, the stroller is one way I can keep them contained. I don't love the awkward wiggling through entryways, the shimmying open of doors with my hip and shoulders -- though I have developed a deep pride in it, at least equal to younger days when I would challenge myself physically with rock climbing, running, martial arts. I can say hands-down twins require way more toughness. Those adventures were optional. Getting out with the stroller -- not so much.
The stroller itself is black. Some wire sticks out from the canopies, which have been flipped up and down thousands of times. I thump it down curbs and push it up hills, holding tight and leaning hard. My brother gifted us the "parent console" -- love that marketing -- and I generally have a cup of coffee sloshing in that panel, and two pacifiers and my phone. When not in use, the Chariot-Battlestar, slightly smaller than two Amish chairs, docks in our living room. If you think of it as an RV, it's quite small. In the last several years, I've put more miles on my stroller than my car.
Now, when I see a double stroller, the old instinct to shrink back is nowhere to be found. Instead, I want to shout across the street in solidarity to passengers and pilot alike. I'm so glad to be sharing the sidewalks and crosswalks and streets with other people and other parents. I think about sharing all the time, since it's something I'm trying to teach my 2-year-old sons.
"There's enough for everyone," I remind them. "Take turns." This is true for all of us, on the sidewalk, too.