Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Contemplating the kiddy transport conundrum

One problem that consumes many parents is how to transport children from A to B and back again. Photo / Thinkstock
One problem that consumes many parents is how to transport children from A to B and back again. Photo / Thinkstock

How I wish I had had any aptitude for maths, because if I did, no doubt I would find not just mothering, but actually living, much easier.

It would spare me the frustrating hours spent in useless equations when I am trying to figure out the best time to phone a foreign continent. It would no doubt prove useful when currency translations just about have me in tears on my rare trips out of the country. It would mean that looking ahead at the primary school's senior maths curriculum wouldn't see me break out in a cold sweat.

It's not just actual numeracy that's useful about maths, but the ability it gives you to see a problem clearly, and solve it.

Now, I am a middle class mother, not struggling to put food on the table admittedly, but not living the high life either. I work two days a week and 'mother' in a more direct, active way five days a week (my husband may argue it's not particularly 'active', but that's another issue).

As any parent knows, problem solving is a big part of parenting - logistics of how, when and why things will happen are a natural and constant part of the lifestyle.

One problem that I think consumes many parents - and has certainly taken up a fair whack of my limited brain power - is how to transport two, and now three, children from A to B and back again.

The car issue is easily solved, if you have a husband who can be reluctantly resigned to spending his most virile days driving a large, blue, faintly hideous seven-seater people mover ("it's not really a people mover if it doesn't have a sliding door!" trilled one kind friend, attempting to make the both of us feel better). Well, maybe not, but it's not a late model Holden either, which is what my husband now claims he'll need to redeem himself once the kids are out of car seats.

The problems related to this car are minor, but still exercise the mind. How will three car seats fit across the backseat?

I could jam up the three seats, but I'm fairly sure my kids will scratch each other's eyes out. And as none of them can go in the front, and my fat can won't fit between two in the back, one will be consigned to the outlying region - the back row - of the car - but which one?

Not the naughtiest one, and not the crankiest one, if a peaceful driving environment is important. That means the two eldest will have to stay where they are.

Luckily babies can generally be secreted anywhere in the first few months so he or she - the most dependent of the lot - will probably draw the short straw, and hopefully spend a great deal of the inevitable travel time sleeping.

An issue of more pressing difficulty is that of the stroller. Not that I'm a legendary walker of any note, but I am someone who understands this has to be an option.

How I wish I had invested very early in a proper stroller that would have lasted me through three children, instead of makeshift solutions each time which now leave me almost without anything viable for any of them.

The first baby had one of those antiquated looking car-seats that click into a walking frame. Safe in the car, and great in malls and other indoor areas it was - but not so great on other surfaces if you'd like your baby to grow up without being developmentally impaired with a severe case of whiplash.

When the second child came, my in-laws generously forked out for a Phil and Ted's two-seater. It was an expensive purchase but a great move in many ways - briefly, the toddler and the baby were accommodated.

The stroller didn't taker up 4/5ths of the sidewalk like many in Mt Eden do, and it had a compartment for all those hundreds of extras we feel obliged to lug around with us.

The fact that it nearly took off your fingers when folding it up seemed a small price to pay.

But then, as often happens, the toddler got sick of sitting in it for any length of time. The baby got a bit heavy for the baby part, but not quite rigid enough for the toddler part. The smaller one is now the only one who will sit in the stroller, but her stocky frame and my inadequate pump equal flat tires, which is only slightly less tiring to push than carrying her all the way.

The five-year-old will run for hours at a time but moans and whinnies like a demented horse when asked to walk down the road a short distance and back again.

It's enough to make you want stay at home.

I was reminded of my upcoming logistical challenge when I read Slate this week, where technology writer Farhad Manjoo debates the merits or otherwise of spending around US$1000 on the Rolls Royce of strollers.

The 150 comments following the article are telling: about half slate him as a halfwit for spending that much money on a stroller, claiming we all inevitably revert to a $29.95 umbrella stroller in the end anyhow. The other half defend a big stroller purchase as one of the best of their lives - especially if the stroller has a coffee holder.

One thing is for sure, whether you believe in a pricey stroller or not, there's a growing interest in a site called toobigforstroller, where pics are sent in of children clearly able to walk yet still ferried hither and yon by adoring parents.

It's a little mean but does underline a point, I guess. There comes a point where, luxury stroller or not, your kid's legs have to do the walking!

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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