We know that newspapers and daytime television programmes make their money by sensationalising issues and skewing events in a way that draws people in and provokes a response. One of the British newspapers has published an article on babywearing older children whose main emphasis is shock entertainment rather than any genuine desire to enlighten and inform. They are well known for it and it comes as no surprise. Their ‘click bait’ article has serves its purpose well, with thousands of us going on to their site to read, provide comment and inadvertently promote them. Every time each of us have shared their drivel in disgust, we have handed them the advertising revenue that they were hoping for by writing such nonsense. Tomorrow they’ll pick something else to comically misrespresent and anger a whole other section of the community.
That said, we all felt moved to write our own response to counter the thoughtlessly damaging seeds of doubt that the ‘journalist’ hoped to plant around whether or not carrying older children was necessary or safe. So here you go!
My Facebook feed is full of this article being shared and commented upon and has ignited a passionate response in the many of us who carry our children in slings beyond babyhood.
They used the words ‘pack pony’ to describe us, and by doing that have reduced our precious children to nothing more than a ‘load’.
We carry our bigger children for many reasons – here are some of mine.
Arthur is 3 and a half, he gets carried in a wrap at least once probably 5 days out of 7. I carry him on the school run, as we are always in a rush and on the last minute, and he can’t keep up with the pace. I carry him to nursery on the days when he says that he doesn’t want to go, as 20 minutes in the sling chatting and walking and in the fresh air settles him and gives him that one to one time that he needs before he can confidently say goodbye for the morning. I carry him at the weekends when we go walking in the Lake District, to places where a pushchair could never go. He asks to be carried when he has walked far enough. I carry Arthur when he wants to cuddle and I need to cook tea. I carry Arthur when he is in a strop because being carried calms him down. I carry Arthur to demonstrate slings to other people at sling meets (but only when he wants to). I carry him to test the wrapping properties of our new wraps. I carry him because I love the closeness with him, and the conversation that feels like it is taking place in our own private bubble.
For our family, wearing our older children came as a natural result to our wearing them as babies. People say it all of the time, that their childhood passes so quickly, but you wear a baby and then all of a sudden you are wearing a toddler without even realising where the time has gone! George, our oldest, is very nearly 5, and we seldom wear him these days. The only real occasion that we do is when we go to the zoo. We have membership to Chester zoo and always take along a spare carrier for him because it is such a big big place. Taking a carrier means we are all more confident that we are going to have a good time. If he gets tired or needs to take a minute he can do that. If there is a big crowds of people around an animal and he finds it intimidating, he can come up and feel the security being carried will always give him, and the better view we inevitably provide!! We see so many other families struggling there, be it parents having to carry tired children in arms, or kids so upset because they are having to keep walking to get around the zoo, and these are struggles that we don’t have thanks to babywearing.
Our youngest, Florence, is almost 3, and we still wear her frequently. Most days on the afternoon school run, when she has had a nice day playing and doesn’t want to stop, I wear her because it save us time when I know she is tired and we get to keep on playing on the way there. We play a lot of eye-spy and guessing games when I am wearing her, she also becomes part of the conversations I have with the other parents at school! She is as much as part of the pick-up now as I am!
Always having a carrier with me gives us security in so many ways. The knowledge that if we need it we always have it to rely on, its there in case someone falls and hurts themselves and needs a little (literal!) pick-me-up, if we’re on a walk and someone gets tired legs or if a wood is a little spooky and they need someone close to show them its safe in there!!
Wearing our children has never been a burden. It isn’t always fun, for our family it is primarily a mode of transport, and on rainy days being bashed on the head by a brolly, or when Florence refuses to not carry something HUGE and bulky with us, can be a pain but it is a pain I cherish every time, even in some small way, because every time we wear we know it may be our last. Whilst moving on to the next stage in our family is exciting we will always cherish every single time we got to wear our babies.
My big children were only carried occasionally, Sophie in particular was so determined to walk everywhere as soon as she was able. Little legs can only carry you so far though and as we do a lot of walking over moors to visit prehistoric sites, slings have always been an essential item to bring. Sophie walked the whole way to 9 ladies stone circle for a picnic before hitching a lift on my back on the way home!Another time I found the big kids wanting to be carried was on holidays. A wrap is small enough to easily carry round just in case it’s needed and when spending the day playing on the beach, building dens and having epic adventures with your big sister is pretty tiring and a wrap makes for a handy place for a late afternoon snooze!
I have identified myself as a ‘babywearer’ for nearly 8 years now, but my relationship with carrying children is fairly pragmatic and unsentimental, given that it has played such a pivotal role in my parenting.
Carrying my children has been truly lovely, but I have no desire to prolong the experience beyond its natural lifespan. I’ve never really worried about my carrying days coming to an end and I certainly wouldn’t carry my older children if I didn’t need to. So with that said, I think the amount of times I’ve carried my older children is testimony to how incredibly useful slings can be, even once your child is mobile.
When it comes to toddler/pre-schooler (and even school age) wearing, I tend to ask myself “what would be the alternative to the sling in this situation?” The option of riding in the sling often allows us to walk further and stretch their abilities more than without it. With the wrap I am able to take a 4 mile hike with my 2yr old and she can still walk part of the way. Without the sling we could only cover a fraction of that distance, or be limited to buggy friendly routes rather than wilder adventures.
I have taken a shopping trip into town with a 3yr old, forgotten the wrap and ended up carrying him in my arms or on my shoulders which is a far bigger strain on me than having him in a carrier when he inevitably needs a rest, or has a meltdown and needs a big cuddle as we walk. I could join the queue of parents holding their kids’ hands whilst waiting for the lift (elevator) to get their empty buggy up to the second floor of the shopping centre, but having a size two folded in my bag is far less cumbersome and serves the same purpose.
Even when we get past the point of needing physical support, the sling offers emotional support for older children. Whilst he wouldn’t want to be carried in public, my eldest boy found an immense comfort in being wrapped for 5 mins at the point whenever he felt particularly sad or angry, especially when he started school. Going up on my back offered him a gentle space to calm down, at a point where even eye-contact would have felt too confrontational and raw. He could cuddle up whilst still feeling angry with me. He didn’t need to speak, we would just breathe and i would get on with some mundane task. I would feel his body change relax after a while and the proximity allowed me to be immediately ready to listen to him and make our reparations.
If there was something easier- a better way of doing things then I’d happily do it as I don’t want to use slings just for the sake of it (although they are pretty and fun), but there are so many times post babyhood where the sling is still the most straightforward and obvious solution to the situation.