Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Strolling along


The Stokke Xplory. Posted by Hello

It's beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me how ugly strollers are. Bulky and nondescript. But this is art.

My sister is so lucky Helena was born in 2002, or I'd be begging her to buy this one for us. But we love our Maclaren.

I've only seen a handful of Maclarens about town. They're easy to spot amid a sea of navy-drab Gracos. At 11 lbs, ours is the only model I would ever consider dragging up to our third-floor apartment.

But this is something else. The Stokke Xplory is the newest luxury buggy to invade city sidewalks:

The radical notion behind the newer stroller is that its munchkin passenger seats are elevated several feet above the ground, at least 30 percent higher than any other stroller on the market. Kids perch above the tailpipe-level exhaust fumes of city streets, away from canine butts and face-whapping tails, not to mention the dust-kicking shoes of pedestrian traffic.

The tailpipe factor is a big one. Huge. Urban living. Something that people who do not use their feet as a primary mode of transportation could never understand. Something suburbanites who drive to the "corner" store could never understand. I've stood on many blocked sidewalks, waiting and swearing as drivers insisted there was enough room for me and my stroller to squeeze through. Yes, but not without asphyxiating my cargo.

It's not a Lexus, it's a stroller. The suspension and shock-absorption is lovely, but are we at risk of raising a bunch of overprotected wusses who wince when their dirt bikes hit gravel and don't like to be touched? Or kids who think that nothing has to be uncomfortable or distasteful if you throw enough money at it? The Bugaboo and Xplory fall into the category of products that make life so easy for newborns that it seems downright wrong.

There's making life easy, and there's making life easy. The Xplory is streamlined design, improved and sensible function. Efficiency.

I'd argue that in fact it is the lower-end strollers that cater to a particular brand of late-20th-century "comfort." Snack trays. Toy gizmo attachment-readiness. Drinkholders for the parents (!?). Laziness.

As far as the stroller-as-status-symbol hierarchy goes, it's not about money; it's about a way of life.

And there's simply no reason for common and essential objects to be so consistently ugly.

Stokke's designs are amazing. I can't say enough good things about Helena's chair. She climbs in of her own accord, often to signal that she's a bit peckish. It pulls up to the kitchen table nicely, where we spend hours colouring or just shooting the breeze. It's (relatively) compact (again, a European perspective on better living). And it's really nice to look at.

Helena is back to her old self again. The weekend was low-key, with more napping than usual. We must've watched The Aristocats about 5 times.

(Yes, I know. Disney. But The Aristocats is an exception. Disney's still a dirty word around here.)

So while Helena's not much of a TV watcher, and I certainly don't encourage the behaviour, I can see the worth of having a couple DVDs on hand for those rainy afternoons when you feel like crap. Who knew Sesame Street wasn't on at 3 in the afternoon?

The only thing new to come out of Helena's mysterious illness is her little tantrums. At first I thought they might even be illness-related — stomach cramps? — but only insofar as being sick may have pushed her to a whole new level of discomfort and frustration, most particularly at her inability to express herself through means other than screaming with clenched fists and throwing herself to the floor to flail about in her mire of philosophical angst.

Maybe I should get her a self-help book.

What is the world coming to that we inflict our neuroses on our children, and we market it as if it's a good thing?

One of the British books in a new series is quoted as:

the most typical of the genre in that it overtly uses the language of self-help. Each story ends with a list of 'affirmations, to help draw out the story's deeper meaning, address issues such as shyness, separation, loneliness, gently help to instil qualities such as confidence, love, sharing, courage and patience'. Designed to be read by parents, children are supposed to close their eyes and concentrate on visualisation techniques.

Children who "suffer from panic attacks and have problems with school phobia" need a little more attention from their parent and of a different quality than a quick-fix pamphlet.

A good children's story will do all those wonderful things without smelling like bullshit.


Anonymous said...

Not particularly apropos to this entry, but I just wanted to tell you I love your blog! I just discovered it more or less by accident, and it is exactly the kind of literate, intelligent piece of work I wish I had the brain cells to produce myself! Thank you and keep it up!

--Rachel, of
milkbreath and me (another Canadian blog)

Isabella said...

You're no slouch yourself. It's nice to meet you, Rachel.