Yesterday´s trip to the toy store was a memorable one. As we approached the door, Chip, who was confined to the stroller after pulling away one too many times on a busy avenue, pipped out “Qué es esto, Mámi?” (What´s this, Mom?). He is at a stage where every development/new place/thing that crosses his path is met with this question, after which he patiently awaits your reply and repeats it himself, as if to confirm it is in fact so.
“This is a toy store, buddy” I respond as I start to scan the shelves for the two items I am seeking (a collapsible tent/playhouse and a better kitchen toy that the cheap 18″ model I bought a few weeks ago which lasted exactly three hours before it broke). We have had few visits to the toy store together, I usually buy toys I think are of interest during my lunch break and then bring them home where we make a big deal of opening them together. This time he was quick on the uptake however and after seconds began asking to get down from the stroller and sticking his hands out the sides in order to touch every item on the shelf.
Of course the kitchens (and tents for that matter) were located on the first floor, up a steep flight of steps. I unbuckle Chip from the stroller, ask an employee to watch the stroller and place him on my hip to tackle the stairs. I set him down amidst Tonka trucks, those car/trikes that have a handle so Mom or Dad can in fact push them down the street, a million stuffed animals and Backyardigan/Mickey/Ben 10 gear (none of which holds any sway with this no-TV baby) and straight for: ………………………………………………
“Qué es esto, Máma?” (note this time this is a rhetorical question geared to get me to recognize the existence of said object, rather than actually identify it, as he knows perfectly well that is a stroller or a Trottine, with an Italian accent, as we like to call them in our house, thanks to a particularly durable and cheap model we purchased on vacation for €40 after we forgot the super Maclaren at home….oops)
“It’s a stroller, my love”
“Síííí, stroh-ler.” At which point he grabs the handles and begins to parade back and forth. I locate the kitchen sets, remain unconvinced that they will hold up better than the previous purchase and yet with the dedication of a kid who never really grew up, scan the shelves for something fun we SHOULD buy, since no trip to a toy store in my book should ever end empty-handed. The answer comes from ground level.
“Trottine, mámi, llevar Trottine a casa? (take stroller, home, Mommy?) squeaks the little golden-headed man at my knee in his soft inquisitive little voice.
Oh dear….a pink stroller for my 2-year-old son here in gay friendly yet still inherently very machista Buenos Aires. What to do?
(well, the answer is what I tend to do 92% of the time with Chip when his requests don´t involve sugar or personal safety issues.)
I grab the stroller in one hand, position C next to the railing and take his other hand and we head downstairs, straight into the amused and slightly critical looks of the 3 twenty-something dudes who run the store. “Te llevás esto?” (Are you taking this?) asks the cashier with a dubious tone and twinkle to his eye. “Yes please” I respond as C inches closer and closer to the store, stroller in hand and ready to cruise. I try to relay the concept of paying for the stroller, slightly above his head I think, though he waits patiently.
Another employee appears from the back with a new fully folded and plastic wrapped model. “Look, C,” I start, feigning excitement “here´s a new one for you.” Never one to miss a beat, C pushes the used item towards the young man and reaches out for the new one. I stuff wallet into purse, unfold stroller and we are off. 10 glorious steps of mother and son pushing empty strollers down a busy Cabildo avenue, until we reach the stairs down to the subway.
“OK bud, come here, time to fold the strollers” I say as I pull us off to the side of street and out of the rush hour rush. I hold the Maclaren and hoist it on my shoulder, thankful it only weighs 12 lbs as I reach down to fold the new purchase in the same fashion. ” No, no máma, Trottine no…” comes the anguished wail from below. “OK dude,” and patience waning I tuck kid onto free hip and grab pink pram in the other hand and begin our descent into the subway. And that´s when the looks start. A grandmother here, a young man there, but I am not stupid, nor oblivious. Everyone seems to find this an odd situation and no one wastes the chance to get a good look at the toddler and his mom and their two strollers (one red, one pink.)
We reach our stop and begin the 7 block hike home. I attempt to load C into his stroller and carry the other but he will hear nothing of it and frankly I don´t blame him. Everyone knows that the first three hours of ownership of a new toy are magical and after that, no matter how cool it is, the sparkle fades a bit. Who am I to interfere with that just so we can get home 10 minutes faster?
So we meander, slowly but surely, each with his/her stroller, pushing along, seeking out the smoothest path among the root strewn sidewalks of our neighborhood. Sometime we stop and sit on a doorstep “A sentar, máma?” pips C and I oblige and then after a moment and a kiss on top of the head we continue. My Chip, who normally tires after a two block max, trucks on for a record 7 blocks until we are almost home and bump into Dad walking the dog. “Wow, C, nice Trottine ” is Dad´s response as C beams and pushes it far ahead of him. We get home only to have Chip race to his room in search of his man-doll Michael, Winnie the Pooh and an owl and trot up to Dad “Vamos a la calle, Pápa?, a pasear a Balti?” (Let´s hit the street, Dad, and walk the dog?) says a tired little C, rubbing his eyes but so in love with his new apparatus that he can´t stay still. “Sure C, let´s go,” replies a game Dad and they trudge off to do some groceries and take the toys for a walk.
Our best girl friend, O, has a stroller of course. Almost all of my girlfriends have little boys, none of whom own strollers or anything pink, for that matter. I also don´t think any of those little boys have the variety of stuffed animal species (that one is definitely my fault, I am a sucker for a cute exotic stuffed toy), or a kitchen set, or a pink motorcycle lent to them by a girl. I love my Chip and he has his requisite cars, trains, plastic tool-kit, building blocks, etc. But he´s two. Soon his whole life (as far as I can tell) will revolve around action heroes, Disney characters, motors, soccer, guns, etc. Is a pink stroller really such a bad thing? Or am I doing him a disservice by buying him toys I feel are genre neutral but are in fact considered “girl” toys in the city where we live? I mean, hell, his dad pushes him around in a stroller all the time and has since he was born AND his dad´s hair is longer than mine will ever be AND he pulls off pastels better than I do too) Should I even care? I hope not, but I wouldn´t want to be setting my son up for a fall just because I thought it was cool to be ahead of the curve and have a stroller, even though none of the other boys do? I feel like we will grow out of this stage before C´s peers and their attitudes come into play, but I don´t know. All I do know is that about 40 people on the street yesterday thought I was nuts (and one nice old lady said her grandson wanted a shopping cart but didn´t have one because they only exist in pink, whatever that means….) I also know that my little boy walked all the way home, a record 7 blocks from the subway with a smile from ear to ear. That´s what counts, right?