While I was pregnant with our third child the only thing I wanted (besides a beautiful, healthy baby) was a jogging stroller that could fit three. After Byron August was born, we decided against it; our two eldest were perfectly capable of riding their bikes while I jogged, or they would be in school and I could fit my runs in then. Not to mention Byron wouldn’t be able to sit up by himself for at least a half a year in the types of strollers they make for three anyway. My husband kept pointing out that I simply would not enjoy pushing over one hundred pounds of kids during my “leisurely” time.
Now, almost six months later, I appear as if I am a caricature of an exercise-obsessed suburban mom who totes her baby in the Baby Bjorn while pushing the other two in the stroller only made for two. And although I can’t jog with an 18 pound mass of smiling baby between my strained arms, I realize that these outings with my children are about way more than me getting exercise, or how many kids I can fit into a stroller.
There are the summer days and the endless questions as we roll down our favorite tree-lined street of one of our most familiar routes: “Mama, what do coyotes eat?”
“Bunny rabbits, or squirrels, or mice.”
“And what do bunny rabbits or squirrels or mice eat?”
And thus we make our way down the food chain until we start at a much larger predator and repeat the same line of questioning all over again.
Naturally, the food chain evolves into a discussion about people’s mailboxes, getting sprayed with their sprinklers and making sure to get the other side of the stroller on our way back up the street, to the garbage they’ve spotted on the side of the road. Someone must have been naughty throwing their Taco-Bell box or beer can down right on top of the dandelions or the beautiful twisty vines, (which are really invasive weeds)…And when we can, that garbage comes home with us so we can deposit it where it really belongs, and can be gone permanently before nine o’clock every Friday morning with the predictable beep of the garbage truck.
There is the hair pulling on our longer outings (I can’t blame them too much for having to tolerate each other in such a confined space for much longer than any toddler should have to endure). There is the sharing of snacks, the imaginative play; there is me reading them a book from my position behind while they hold up the pages so I can see. We read “Going On A Bear Hunt” so many times, I no longer needed them to hold up the pages. We ventured through many more places than the book could take us, making up rhymes for the pages we would add between. There are the songs we make up to fit the mood of our outings, there are the playgrounds we’ve ranked (the blue playground being our favorite), the horses along the fence we feed, and there are the nodding heads of a premature nap-time; how quickly it becomes unbearably quiet. It seems that the things around us used to our daily visits, miss the exuberant chatter of my children as much as I do when they fall asleep.
There are the fall mornings, crisp like their eagerness and the extra layer of clothing making intolerance come a little bit more quickly within the tight confines of the chariot. On the winter days, they are heavier to push through the snow on our way to more plowed paths, and the sled we have somehow managed to fit always comes out at the slightest promise of a hill. Springtime, their questions and our dialogue of the life sprouting around us makes the stroller our little, portable classroom where the lessons come more readily.
And I run alone sometimes too. Working my way through the things that have discouraged me, becoming my own, personal therapist who promises to deliver me back home a better wife, a better mother, a better person.
My years as a mother of young children have been measured by the life that has happened from the seat or the steering arm of our stroller. I have taught, I have parented and I have loved during the outings away from the piles of unfolded laundry and cleaning needing to take place at home. My children first learned about morality and love of nature from these outings. And I have realized, triple stroller or not, we will find a new way to work our way down that same street; my children will talk about life from the seats of their bikes, ask questions between their strides on a scooter and perhaps one day, even jog alongside their mom while exchanging life lessons.
Our voices will continue to echo through each season we visit, our mode of travel no longer important.