by Elizabeth Renzetti
Perhaps the following scenario seems familiar: You’ve decided to treat yourself to a plate of pasta or a cappuccino, and throw open the door to your favourite restaurant only to be confronted by a landscape that looks like an SAS obstacle course. Except in place of tire swings and vast pits of mud there are babies.
Wait, not just babies, because babies on their own are fine. They’re compact, wee, perfectly portable miniature people, designed to fit in the crook of mom or dad’s arm. No, the problem is not the babies, it’s the baby packaging.
There, littering the restaurant, crammed between tables and presenting a tripping hazard to wait staff and hapless old people, is a fleet of buggies.
Nay, a flotilla. An armada – because these days, baby transport can’t be baby-sized, it has be roughly the same mass as a Spanish galleon. (Maybe Columbus thought of naming his flagship the Bugaboo, who knows?)
It used to be that a little buggy – the kind you bought at Argos or were given by a kindly friend who’d survived the baby years – could be neatly folded and tucked under a table. If two of you met for lunch, you’d each pull baby from her little umbrella stroller and sit her on your lap, and then fold the buggy away. That way other humans, and not just the ones who had recently procreated, could share the restaurant with you.
Now, alas, buggies are the size of tanks, and are roughly as collapsible. This growth has coincided almost exactly with the expansion in the sense of entitlement of new parents. It’s as if, upon giving birth, every new mom is given a ‘’Get out of my way’’ card.
New mothers don’t need any more grief, of course. I was one once, and you’re lucky if you make it through the day without rending your clothes or getting on the first plane to Portugal. But becoming a parent, while it does allow you entry into a lovely club of other beaming idiots, does not allow you to forget your manners.
Chief among those is: We all share this world, and its restaurants, and its sidewalks. You’re not entitled to take up a continent’s worth of space just because you have a baby. Buy a buggy that folds, and when you get to the restaurant, put your baby in your arms, and put the damn thing away. Everyone in the restaurant will be happier, the waitress will be happier, and I’m pretty sure that your baby will be, too.
Elizabeth Renzetti is the Globe and Mail’s European arts correspondent in London, and a mother of two.
Originally published on September 6, 2010