I keep my healthy four-year-old in a buggy - because it's easier for me! Defiant mother scoffs at warnings that stopping children from walking is harmful - but is she wrong?

  • LAUREN GEE still takes her four-year-old son home in a buggy
  • She says it saves time when he is being difficult on the school run
  • Sebastian sometimes runs off or refuses to walk when they are out

By Lauren Gee


My four-and-a-half-year-old son Sebastian quite often emerges from the school gate exhausted, irritable and impossible to reason with. Dragging his feet along the pavement, the ten-minute stroll home would take ten times longer if I let him go at his own pace. So I whisk him into his buggy and wheel him away.

There’s nothing wrong with his legs. Sebastian is more than capable of walking and sometimes complains about being strapped in. But both of us are the better for him not being on foot.

So most days I still use the buggy, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can get away with it.

Pushed to the limit: Lauren Gee, from Loughton, Essex, believes transporting her four-year-old son Sebastian in a buggy is the the best way to save time on the school run

Pushed to the limit: Lauren Gee, from Loughton, Essex, believes transporting her four-year-old son Sebastian in a buggy is the the best way to save time on the school run

I know I’m not the only one. Parenting forums such as Mumsnet are full of exhausted mothers extolling the virtues of buggies, sometimes for children as old as five.

Being a mother can be stressful and using a buggy is a sensible and simple way to save my sanity during the daily grind of parenting.

 

It is certainly not harmful, which is why a friend and I were incredulous at recent research that claimed parents who put young children in buggies for too long could impair not only their physical skills but  also their speech.

According to neuropsychologist Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro Physiological Psychology in Chester, an over-reliance on prams and strollers reduces the time children spend interacting with parents. The knock-on effects, she warns, can harm performance at school and last throughout their lives.

Nonsense! Yes, my son’s buggy  is forward-facing but at his age he  is more than capable of turning to talk to me. When he’s not in it I make sure he has plenty of activity, including weekly football and gymnastics sessions, to keep him healthy.

Danger buggy: Last week neuropsychologist Sally Goddard Blythe warned that an overreliance on strollers can harm a child's performance at school and last throughout their lives

Danger buggy: Last week neuropsychologist Sally Goddard Blythe warned that an overreliance on strollers can harm a child's performance at school and last throughout their lives

Besides, unless any of these ‘experts’ have experienced the sheer, tear-your-hair-out frustration of being confronted with a stubborn, whining little boy who parks himself in the middle of the pavement, refusing to budge because  his legs are too tired, I don’t believe they are in any position to pass judgment. What am I supposed to do? He offers me no option.

He isn’t badly behaved. But he is  a typical four-year-old.

If I let him walk, he wanders off into people’s front gardens or swings around lampposts, which is all very well  on days off but not on the three  mornings a week when I have to deliver his two-year-old sister Daphne to her child-minder before getting to my job as a project manager for a housing federation. Being late is not an option.

COMMENT BY DR ELLIE CANNON

I've read Lauren’s story and the opinion of neuropsychologist Sally Goddard Blythe. And I  agree with the expert – that expert being Lauren.

The theory that the use of buggies prevents interaction  with mothers is typical of the black-and-white dogma parents are faced with today.

A huge number of aspects of modern life reduce interaction with parents: things like phones, cars, televisions and working parents. How can any research isolate forward-facing buggies as the culprit? Of course closeness is essential, but surely so is seeing the world around you.

Parenting decisions are made in reality by considering a huge number of factors that are individual to the family and child. And that is exactly what Lauren has done.

In an ideal world Sebastian would be walking home; he’s old enough and the exercise would be good for him. But he isn’t overweight, and  from her descriptions he sounds like many boisterous, inquisitive boys his age.

My children certainly weren’t in  a buggy at that age, and I wouldn’t recommend my patients have their four-year-olds in buggies.

But Lauren has made a decision based on the convenience, safety and ease of her family.
She has weighed up the pros and cons and is doing what she believes is right for her child.

At 2st 8lb Sebastian is too heavy to carry. I know this because I’ve put my back out trying.

He gets bored on his scooter and jumps off his buggy board – a platform that attaches to the pram for him to stand on.

The half-mile distance between our home in Loughton, Essex, and his school doesn’t warrant driving.

So a buggy – single if we are on our own or our double  if we’re with Daphne – is the only option. Both are forward-facing  and built to hold older children of up to 3st 4lb each.

I wouldn’t contemplate taking Sebastian any distance without  one.

The last time I did so, a couple of months ago, he ran off down a busy side street in Central London.  I was terrified.

On another occasion, when I decided to risk using only the single buggy to transport Daphne, I had to drape him over the hood just to get him home.

If we’re going shopping I will strap him in for up to two hours. I provide books, his lunch box and, as a last resort, an iPad by way of diversion.

Strangers give me disparaging looks in the street and friends say that instead of using a buggy, I should discipline Sebastian better. But how many four-year-olds listen to their mum when they are tired?

My partner, Leighton, 37, a systems architect, would love to get rid of the buggy but it’s more because of the space it takes up in our home than because it’s bad for our son’s health.

My mum is also adamant it would  be better for her grandson’s health  to walk more. They are all entitled to their opinions but as a grown woman of 32 I don’t have to listen.

Increasingly, Sebastian does tell me he’s too big for a pushchair and begs me to let him out.

He feels self-conscious because his friends don’t use one and asks me to walk the last few yards before we get to school so they don’t see him in it.

After Sebastian turns five in August, he’ll hopefully be better at walking, by which time he will be too big for the buggy and, in any case, he will have to make room  in our buggy for my third child, who I’m expecting next month.

Until then I will carry on pushing him in his buggy, regardless of what anyone else has to say about the matter.

Frankly, it’s nobody’s business but my own.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I've taken care of my five nieces and nephews many times over the last 16years, myself i'm disable and have limited mobility but even I never put them into a buggy when there was nothing wrong with them.. My one nice suffered hip pain as a younge child so yes i used the buggy for her to collect from school but no further then 4 1/2yr (so really nursery) Heaven forbid she spends 20min's with her son having a chat and seeing how his day went, not only that how embarrassed must this poor little boy be, we talk about stamping out bullying well don't put a target on your childs back either, why not take a bike or scooter down to the school gates for him ! Or why don't she cycle down with a trailer on the back two birds one stone.. But i don't agree with what she's doing ,he's a healthy child be glad of that there are thousands of parents who would love to see there child walk home as slow as they like from school, count your blessings.

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Oh my goodness!!! What is wrong with these mothers?? Between this and the mom who lets her 5 year old sleep in bed with her makes me want to puke

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'He isn¿t badly behaved. But he is a typical four-year-old.' No, he is badly behaved. Sitting down in the middle of the pavement or running off into peoples' gardens is simply bad behaviour, she is mitigating the symptoms instead of dealing with the cause.

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Has anyone else noticed that this story is really only about what is best for the mother and her needs? Also the comment that at 32 no one can tell her what to do comes across as very childish. It's the type of comment a teenager throws at a parent whilst stamping their feet because they can't get their own way. I'm not sure that with a comment like that she is mature enough to be a parent. I wonder how she reacts at work as a manager if things don't go her way? If her attitude is the same at work as it is in this article, all defiant and I know best then I'm really glad she isn't my manager. I'm not sure that this article will have done her any favours. In time I suspect she will become to regret that she ever agreed to its being published.

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Get a buggy board!

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What is a car but a big, petrol driven buggy for adults? Perhaps they should all use their legs instead! (For short journeys).

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I don't see why this is different to driving them to school in a car? Or for that matter driving yourself in a car rather than walking or cycling! : )

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How long before MotherCare does extra large buggies for 15 year olds? They can be stroppy and run off too.

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My four were always taken to and from school by car (5miles away) they've managed to grow up fit and healthy, a lot of fuss over nothing.

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Put the child in a pair of reigns and make him walk without misbehaving. ( you can always drag him a bit if he lags behind - hell soon learn). This woman needs to 'man up' a bit. Having children is no big deal, women have been doing it for thousands of years, mostly without parent and child parking spaces, or I-pads to amuse their offspring!

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