Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What is up with these BUGGIES?

temp_buggyI keep seeing them!  I didn’t even know what they were called until I Googled it.  There was nothing under “sad spoiled-kid-with-atrophied-legs toy rolly-cars” but then I tried various combinations of “push” and “car” and finally hit upon it:  The Push-Around Buggy or, even more deluxe, The Whisper Ride Buggy, from Step 2.  I don’t know if Little Tikes etc make them also; I got fed up looking at all the pictures of giddy children and their hyper-attentive mamas.

Yes, all of the children were white – and all the mamas have the same skin tone.  In this area, most are pushed by Filipina “mamas” who are several shades darker than the child “driver”.

HOWEVER.  All that is secondary to the fact that ALL of the mamas in the promo photos are staring closely at the children.  The manufacturer’s subtle message being, “We are covering our butts by strongly implying that you never leave your child alone for an instant in this thing.”

temp_buggy2Anyway.  I was thinking all the way home from traffic court today (100-something in a 70 zone; my parents should never have left me alone for an instant in the car!!!):  “Do I love them, do I hate them?  Are they Good for Kids or Bad for Kids???”  (the unspoken message being, “Do my kids need this?”)

I’m leaning towards Bad (ie “No, they really don’t.”) – as you might have guessed by my annoyance with the promo pictures.

I originally thought the handle was removable so that at some point the baby could “drive” the thing him/herself.  But nope.  It does come off, but there doesn’t seem to be a way for the baby to drive it independently (their feet cannot touch the ground in either case). 

From reading the website, I have no clue what the advantage is of taking off the handle.  How could you push it then?

Mostly, it seems like people in this area use them instead of a carriage – but why?  So much science and technology go into making fantastic carriages, each year’s better – easier to push, more storage, more swivelly wheels – than the last.  To trade a carriage in for this thing, well, I reasoned that there must be a huge advantage.

It sure doesn’t look the advantage is in the pushing.  Notice all the mamas in the ads are crouching down?  I suspect they’re resting their backs from shoving the thing along with the super-short handle that does not compare at all to the comfy height of most carriage handles (adjustable handles on carriages!  yet another innovation since I first had kids!).

But I did figure maybe there was something about having the kid low to the ground, easy-in, easy-out, that kind of thing.  The same kind of reason that I use a wagon from time to time if we’re not hauling a lot of stuff and we’re planning on making lots of in-and-out stops (like the zoo).  Or maybe a sensory advantage to having the sides open so the child can experience the world more closely.

But no.  Nobody seems to care about that.  Most people pushing them around here just stick the baby in and push it from Point A to Point B without really seeming to notice what the baby’s experience is like (okay, most of the nannies around here don’t really interact with their children while out walking, but that’s another kvetch).

According to the Step 2 website, here’s the advantage:  “Trade in your stroller for something a little more fun. The Push Around Buggy offers storage and security, while providing lots of fun for your little one.”  The deluxe model also features “Toddlers cruise in style with the sleek Whisper Ride Buggy. Numerous amenities include extra-large Silent Ride Tires™, cupholder, pretend steering wheel with electronic horn, under-hood storage compartment, seat belt and removable handle!”

So the big attraction, compared with the downside of pushing something without steerable wheels and with a back-breaking handle?  Subtracting all the “amenities” one might also find in any decent stroller (ie safety, storage, wheels), let’s sum up:  FUN.   The laugh-a-minute fun of a steering wheel (I should know all about that – ask me how traffic court went today!).  Plus, on the deluxe model, the “electronic horn.”

So is the Buggy just an innocent rip-off, a way to sell parents (who have only one child to transport, therefore – potentially – spare income!) who already have a stroller and possibly a wagon an extra piece of plastic for the garage?  Quite likely.

It bothers me more to see nannies pushing the things around on errands and playground walks.  They don’t seem to care about stimulating the child, yet they have to stoop to push the buggy around, in the same way that they have to stoop to scoop when they walk their employers’ dogs. 

It is less convenient for the nanny and the child really doesn’t seem to be having a much better time.  Kind of like a Driving Miss Daisy thing:  the nanny is the chauffeur, and her comfort and preference doesn’t matter much.

My longstanding theory, in general, about entertainment for the carriage is:  forget about it.  The walk should be entertaining enough.  The world is entertaining. 

If I have been walking through it for almost 40 years and still notice new and interesting things every day, my kid, who isn’t even 2, doesn’t need a steering wheel and any number of buttons and bells and gadgets to look at as the world goes by.

So do I love the Buggy?

I do not.  It seems like a whole lot of minus (including the expense) for a teeny-tiny potential “plus” that even the manufacturer hasn’t thought of (the “sensory stimulus of being open & close to the ground” thing that I thought of while watching them on the way home).

Will it ruin children?  Probably not (unless those mamas keep staring at them like in the ads instead of getting up and actually pushing them).  But it may cost a lot in chiropractic care for caregivers – oh, but their insurance probably doesn’t cover it anyway.  Never mind.

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