We lock eyes despite the Christmas crowds at West Town Mall. We smile at each other because we know. We know that if we take our little ones out of their strollers the weight of our diaper gear and shopping bags (hanging precariously from our Mommy Hooks) will cause them to flip over in spectacular fashion.
There is a certain solidarity among those pushing a stroller. We even have a name: “The Stroller Set.” Of course, I was totally unaware of that special bond until I had my own baby. I tried to explain the phenomenon to my friend who doesn’t have children while we were waiting in line at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. My 14-month-old daughter (and her stroller) were in tow. I said, “There’s a certain understanding with just the glimpse of an eye.” My friend thought it was interesting although she seemed a little perplexed.
As we made our way through the aquarium, my daughter insisted on being carried. My sweet friend offered to push the stroller through the throngs of people. I don’t think she knew what she was signing up for! The stroller did, in fact, nearly flip over a few times. And there’s a pretty good chance she ran into someone or something. Thankfully, there were no injuries to report. I could tell it was no easy task for her, but she kept pushing. God bless her! Then we made it to the moving sidewalk. While the rest of us could stand still and “Oh!” and “Ah!” over the fish swimming in the giant tank, everyone pushing a stroller had to keep on huffing and puffing. I think that’s when she really bonded with her fellow stroller people. Once I stepped off the moving sidewalk she looked at me and said, “I totally get it.” Later I even noticed she gave that same knowing smile of solidarity to a tired Dad tasked with pushing a stroller. My work here is done.
Or so I thought. My mom joined me on a rare child-free shopping day to the outlets in Pigeon Forge. The sweltering heat didn’t slow down our search for a deal. But I stopped in my tracks when I spotted a scene that I know well. A mother was holding her tiny baby in her arms and trying to help her husband carry their loaded down stroller up a flight of steps. Okay, it was only three steps, but it might as well have been Mount Everest. Naturally, the sidewalk ramp was ridiculously far away. For the record, I would have done the exact same thing as those parents. I would have said a prayer for strength and given the steps a go. I offered to lend them a hand and I helped carry their stroller up the steps. They thanked me profusely, but I just smiled and said, “I’ve been there.” Just because my daughter wasn’t with me, didn’t mean my sense of stroller solidarity was at home, too. As we walked away, my mother said she didn’t even notice them struggling to get up the stairs. I gave my mother a pass since it’s been a while since she pushed a stroller. She’s still basking in the glow of new grandmother-hood.
For others pushing a stroller is more recent history. A total stranger proved that the spirit of stroller togetherness doesn’t fade. My daughter, now 18-months old, and I went to Fantasy of Trees. We parked in a nearby garage, which meant a little bit of a hike. It turns out a mother and her six-year-old son were leaving Fantasy of Trees at the same time and heading for the same garage. As I walked up to the garage, a man walked out of the parking garage door. He looked at me and kept going as the door closed in front of me. The mother hurried up and said, “Let me get that for you!” Hallelujah! A stroller angel! She opened and held every single door for me in that parking garage. Every. Single. Door. Even the elevator door. I thanked her profusely and she smiled at me and said, “It wasn’t that long ago I was pushing a stroller.”
I’m so grateful to that mother and all the others who have seen me struggling with my stroller and helped. I also appreciate those knowing smiles from all those other parents pushing strollers. Of course, there are other ways we experience parent solidarity like when we hear a crying baby in a restaurant. But nothing seems to sum up for me that sense of comradery like a stroller. So I say to you my fellow mamas, push on! Push on!
Have you experienced stroller solidarity? What is your stroller solidarity story?