The Last Stroller Ride

Twelve years. That’s how long I have been pushing a stroller. I’m only thirty-seven now. That’s nearly a third of my life. I’ve pushed the lighter “umbrella” strollers. I’ve pushed the clunkier, heavy-duty strollers. Our most recent one was the double stroller. It navigated surprisingly well, considering it was like five feet long. It came in handy, though.

I remember my first time pushing the stroller. There lay our firstborn, Daniel, barely able to open his eyes. In fact, at that early stage, you don’t place the kid directly in the stroller; instead, you hook their car seat into it. As he grew, he was able to sit in it without the actual booster, though he still needed to be propped up. Time passed; he gained strength. He could hold his own head up. He could look around. He loved going for rides down the sidewalk.

Our next three kids, likewise, came along. Initially, our first and second children would ride in the stroller together. Then, after the third one came along, the firstborn graduated from stroller-riding to walking (which often meant one parent carrying him!). Once the fourth child came, numbers one and two were walkers. Eventually, number three could walk or could ride, depending on how far we were going and how tired he was.

When I first had children, I would often look off into the future, seeing the day when my kids would no longer be kids. I thought how strange that must be. As the years went by, contemplating that day in the distance became even stranger. Being a parent of younger children is so central to my identity now that it’s hard to imagine life after.

I guess I had never really thought about the eventual moment when I would, for the last time, push one of my children in the stroller. Wow! What a mind-bending thought. It would be a strange day when I set out on that final journey. Perhaps I would smile, thinking of how much my kids had grown. Maybe I would shed a tear or two, knowing that my babies were moving incessantly toward adulthood. Heck, I might do a little of both.

But that’s not how it happened. In fact, I cannot tell you exactly when the last stroller ride was. My best guess is that it was during spring break, 2019, when we spent the last day at Disneyland. My arms were tired. I had been pushing that thing around for three straight days at the busy park. I was relieved to close the door on the van after putting the stroller inside. Maybe I pushed it after that. But I can’t remember it. Anyway, that was surely the last significant moment we used it.

We were packing our house for our move this past winter. In the process, we were sorting out items that needed to be moved from those that could be donated or sold. There, in the closet, stood our double stroller. We realized that we didn’t need it any longer. Our kids have gotten to the point at which they are all walkers. Sure, there might be an occasion or two when the stroller would still come in handy. But it was no longer essential.

The thing is this: you don’t know that you are on the final stroller ride in the moment. You set out for a mundane push. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Everything seems typical. You walk on, blissfully unaware that time has moved. You might not see it; you might not feel it. But things have changed.