A post by our own Karl, written a couple years ago.
My mom was one of those moms who seemed to know everyone. Growing up in a small town going anywhere with my mom it seemed like I always heard, “Oh I remember when you were this big…” I’m sure most people have had this experience; I guess it comes with the territory of growing up in a small town. I mean it is a natural process, we do grow up, but to hear that over and over again gets old. There was one time that stood out from the rest of the “I remembers” that still sticks with me today. I was with my mom in a small shop on the square in Woodstock. The store was Stone’s; it was the type of shop I would hesitate taking MY kids into: small ceramic bunnies, collector plates, as well as other numerous fragile crystal brick-a-brack décor that is only found at the relatives’ houses that clearly don’t have any young kids living there. Yet, there was something about Stone’s that brought kids in by the droves: candy. The store was run by an older couple (Mr. and Mrs. Stone) who seemed to love children, plus they kept the candy at the front of the store to avoid any crystal bunny mishaps. The couple always had a smile across their face and was happy to sell the sugary vices to the children of Woodstock. Seeing that my mom knew everyone, that meant we couldn’t go anywhere without stopping to have a conversation with at least someone. Satiated with a few Swedish fish, my mom asked Mrs. Stone, “Do you remember this guy? He was the one that I wore during that nature class.” Mrs. Stone had that far off misty look in her eyes as she filed through the memory banks and then a smile crept across her face. The two then continued on about how much I had grown since then, and how cute I was then riding on my mom’s back, what a good little student I was, and how much I enjoyed riding along. This piqued my curiosity, after we left the store I asked, “Mom, what were you two talking about? You wore me?”
As we walked home, my mom explained to me that she had sewn a backpack carrier for me while she was talking some graduate classes. Seeing that it was a field course where they met at some of the local forest preserves to study the flora and fauna, why not bring me along? Once back home, she rummaged through some stuff in her sewing room and emerged with a well worn lump of light blue fabric; the hand-made carrier. She explained to me, while living in Okinawa during the Viet-Nam War, my mom saw the ladies there carrying their babies, so she wanted to make one for her (future) baby (me).
Apparently, I was happy in the carrier as they hiked around learning about the environment. Hmmm, think there is a coincidence that I am science teacher?? Modeling is one of the best instructional strategies that we as parents have in our parenting tool box. If our children grow-up seeing us babywearing the chances are pretty good that when they have children, they will babywear. I don’t want to preach to the choir about how great baby wearing is, but let’s think about what we are doing while wearing our babies. My mom took me out in nature, the memories I have of this I can’t remember. But our brains are fascinating things. Memories become the fabric of who we are and how we view the world. With each new experience that we expose our children to, the more their brains grow. What better way to enrich our young ones lives than to bring ‘em along? Let’s face it, I love wearing my kids! As my family hikes around the different forest preserves, I have a little voice behind me asking me questions, a little hand rubbing my shoulders or back as I scramble up a steep path, and little feet to tickle as we walk through grassy fields. Even the hum-drum drudgery of day to day tasks (mowing the lawn, putting the dishes away) are made better with a little friend on board.
The bond that was forged with my mom was something that I cherish and I want to pass on to my kids. Today, I am kicking myself that as a babywearing father, the carrier that my mom made has been lost in the shuffle of time. I think I remember seeing a picture of me on my mom’s back while she was showing me some sort of flower or plant. It’s a shame that the picture has also been lost, because I could show my kids that I too was back rider, not to be confused with the Black Riders, or Nazgûl. Had they been worn by their parents maybe their life would have turned out differently.