Why I still wear my three-year-old

“You’re too big to be carried,” said the woman in the office, as Emmy climbed onto my back, ready for the walk home through the chaotic Indian traffic on market day. “You should be using those legs of yours!”

“But I like to carry her,” I replied, with an edge to my voice. How dare she speak like that to my three-year-old child? “It keeps her safe from traffic, out of reach of dogs and tourists who want to pinch her cheeks; I can walk faster, I can talk to her more easily….”

The truth is, I feel like a weight has actually been lifted from my shoulders when I swing Emmy up onto my back and stride out at my own pace. I wouldn’t want to say it in front of her, but it’s great to be able to walk swiftly along without keeping to her short legs’ pace, without dealing with trips, stumbles and grazed knees, close calls with cow pats, gobs of spit and gum and without having my hand wrenched this way and that so she can investigate pieces of broken glass and dandelion clocks or just stop and drag on my arm for no reason at all. It’s not that I want to completely stifle her sense of wonder and exploration and her own pleasure in walking, but it’s liberating not to have to do it on every walk we take.

And a child can experience the world in a completely different way from the relaxed vantage point of an adult’s back. Emmy and I talk about the different kinds of birds and trees, the people and their myriad activities in the villages we pass through, the stars and planets at night and our feelings, thoughts and issues. We thrash out conflicts she’s had with me and other family members and share our fantasies about what we’re gong to do and eat when we get back to Australia.

I love to walk. The only thing I really miss about life before children is being able to go on long, challenging hikes. Three hours is about my limit now when I have two on board, as is usually the case, and nothing too steep, slippery or otherwise hairy. But that does mean I can still walk for three hours, talk to Emmy and give her baby sister the stimulation she loves without having to do anything except put one foot in front of the other. And we do walk a lot – because we can. Because I can go anywhere that doesn’t require advanced rock-climbing skills, even with two children in tow.

A lot of people don’t realise that when they see Emmy on my back she’s not being lazy (well, not always, and what’s wrong with laziness anyway?) Chances are, she’s spent an hour walking at a challenging pace, up and down steep hills, and is only now enjoying a well-earned rest. Having the freedom to ride ironically gives her the opportunity to walk in places other children her age can’t reach by foot or stroller, and she is already developing a love of hiking, exercise and the outdoors.

The other day at lunch, someone remarked how lucky my friend Katie was, to have a toddler who wanted to walk all the time: “It’s such a nuisance when they want to be carried all the time!” Katie and I looked at each other in bewilderment. “But it’s so much easier to carry them!” I’m so glad to be past the stage of the toddler who wants ‘down’ every few seconds, something that Katie was suffering through. The great thing about wearing a three-year-old is that she’s not significantly heavier than a one-year-old but a lot easier to tote. Emmy has morphed from a chubby, 15kg toddler into a skinny, 16kg preschooler who knows when she’s onto a good thing and so is quite happy to ride for long periods. She can clamber on herself or will tolerate being hip-scooted onto my back; she can put up an awkward sleep-hood alone and help me get a babywearing coat on and off. If I start to get tired or my shoulders ache, she can cope with walking for a while and maintain a reasonable pace. In fact I can comfortably manage long outings with two preschoolers by alternating them on my back. Watching her sleep as I write this, though, I realise what a baby she still is. I’m so grateful she still wants me to carry her and even more grateful that I’m still able to do so.

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21 Responses to Why I still wear my three-year-old

  1. Keelie says:

    Great post! I hope my DS likes being worn as much as Emmy when toddler time comes.

  2. RachelKM says:

    Sarah, I really enjoyed this post. I hope my DS will still allow me to wear him when he’s “all grown up”. Lovely photos. I would have loved to have seen one of you tandem wearing too.

  3. Steph says:

    My toddler isn’t worn very much any more, but I think it would benefit some of his challenging behaviours that stem from a need for my attention.

    Sarah, do you have any tips on how to encourage an independent toddler up onto your back?

  4. sarahr says:

    I just posted something about reluctant toddlers, Steph and included a tandem pic for you Rachel…. more tandem pics to come in a future series of posts we have planned on tandem bwing.

  5. Nat says:

    Lovely, Sarah. HJ still loves “up”, long may it last!

    Have you got tips on tandeming?

  6. sarahr says:

    There’s a whole series of posts on tandem babywearing coming soon!

  7. Pingback: March: Tandem wearing month at BCD blog! | Baby Carriers Downunder

  8. Rosie says:

    That’s beautiful, I love the sentiment. People who don’t use carriers don’t know what they’re missing. The whole handsfree with a pram thing is a joke. They are always jiggling their prams with one hand to settle the baby who is bored sitting in it. lol

  9. Kass says:

    Thank you! You’ve articulated my feelings on this exactly – My 3 1/2 yo still loves the sling, albeit not as often as when he was a teeny tot, – but the freedom it gives us both remains priceless…

  10. Rachel says:

    Hooray! Here is a photo of my 3 1/2 year old on my back (at the bottom of the post): http://lusaorganics.typepad.com/clean/2010/04/finding-joy.html

    I just returned from a trip to the city without my carrier (forgotten in the chaos of departure). It was very stressful to be carrier free, even with a nearly 4 year old. My daughter was tired, cranky, and overstimulated at times and I had to either carry her in arms or let her walk and be discontented. Navigating traffic, hurrying along to catch a train – all would have been sweeter with her riding high on my back.

    I love babywearing – both big and small.

  11. Natalie says:

    Love it! It really is so much easier! My two are 12 months apart, and for my first year of having two kiddos it was the only way I could handle shopping, etc. I have a friend who very rarely takes her two kids anywhere… she feels like it is way to overwhelming… and her two aren’t anywhere near as close together as mine are.

    I haven’t been wearing my 26 month old as much as I used to… he is very heavy, and he does like walking usually (although he’d love to be worn instead most of the time), and his sister wants worn too… but I so loved when both of them were lighter and I could just load them up and go!

  12. Tara says:

    I recently took my ds to a baseball game. It was great to toss him on my back to get in to the ballpark, let him run around on the wiffle ball field we have here in San Diego, then load him in the front when it got late and he was getting tired. The men at the game were impressed with me too when I was able to take my little man with me to the concessions and bring back 2 beers with no problems!!!

  13. Jen says:

    We just did a week at Disney with a 6yo and almost 3yo with no strollers 🙂 I mostly use a beco butterfly. I put him on my front then swing it around to the back. I also used a nojo sling (easier to nurse in than the beco). My 6 yo is only 36lb so he can be worn too (his legs are a little long but it works for short jaunts)

  14. Sarah says:

    Great post! This gives me hope that I have a lot longer to wear my one year old! I can’t imagine not having that little face peering over my shoulder babbling to me 😀

  15. andrea says:

    Great post… It’s wonderful to find that i’m not the only one toddler wearing. My youngest is fast approaching 3 in the next few weeks and the amount of comments I receive about ‘are you still carrying her?’ are unbelievable. Mind you, having said which i’ve also had the unfortunate oppertunity to have reluctance to walk blamed on my ‘extended baby wearing’ rather than people just realising that she’s her own person and will choose to walk further when she’s ready. After all she’s only been walking a year this month it’s not a great length of time at all.

  16. Rebecca says:

    Great post! I do love the closeness and bonding time with my little one on our short walks.

  17. Amanda says:

    I LOVE your post! my little girl is just about to turn two and we carry her everywhere. Where we live it is very odd to see someone carry their child in a carrier. The older she gets the more I get the “What the heck are you doing carrying that kid” looks, and she’s tiny! I’m so glad there are other people fighting off the critics with me 🙂 I feel so much more relaxed with her on me, no frantic looks around to make sure she’s right beside me. I love it.

  18. Beth says:

    This is great! My boy is 11months, and I’ve been wondering how much longer I can wear him. I’m glad to hear the answer is a long time!

  19. Vita says:

    Great post! I’m carrying my 19 mo old daughter everywhere. I hope to be able to keep ‘wearing’ her for a long time, thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Erin says:

    What an inpirational post! I just love carrying my son, but I am so sick of hearing people say, “Oh, don’t bother with that thing. He’s old enough to walk. I agree completley that it gives toddlers more of walk, because some of the places we hike, there is no way I’d take a stroller, let alone push an EMPTY stroller!

  21. Nadiya says:

    this is such a lovely post, just what I needed to hear. I’m not the only one who wants to do this x

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