By Nicole Paitsel, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
There’s no limit to a mother’s protective ire.
She’ll combat bullies, germs and wild animals, and not necessarily in that order. One British Columbia mom stunned the world earlier this month when she launched an attack against a cougar — it was dragging away her 5-year-old son — with only a water bottle for a weapon.
Most of us will never fight off anything more harrowing than spiders and skinned knees. But don’t be fooled, we’ll rip the eyes out of anyone who threatens our babies.
My most recent cougar-momma moment occurred at a family-friendly theme park over Labor Day weekend. Trying to squeeze in one last drop of fun before summer’s end, it seemed like thousands of other people had turned out. And by the end of the day, my 14-month-old son and I had been cut off, bumped and pushed more than I could handle.
At one point, I loudly announced that the next person who jetted in front of my stroller would have sore ankles the next day. That cleared the path for a few minutes, but the pulsing crowd shortly resumed its normal behavior.
It wasn’t until we stepped into the chaotic park train, however, that I felt myself slip over the edge. Herded inside the holding area with the stroller in one hand and Brody on my hip, we were spun around, shoved to the side and left bewildered before we realized the train had loaded and there was no room for us. Men, women and teenagers stared with no sympathy at the few parents left standing alone with their toddlers, and I was fuming.
Parking myself at the front of the holding area, I blocked the entrance with my stroller and glared at anyone who came close, declaring that the women and their children would not be left behind this time. And when a grandmother attempted to shove me out of the way, I felt no regret as I pushed the empty stroller forward to trip her. She wasn’t hurt, of course, and, embarrassed, she flitted her eyes to me for a soft-spoken apology.
So it’s time, I thought, for a little review of stroller etiquette. And don’t worry, this lesson will include a few tips for the stroller-wielding parents, too.
Let’s start with them, in fact. Mommies and daddies, the right-of-way should generally be in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you’re free from responsibility.
First, think of the traditional rules of the road. Slower traffic — and, yes, you’re always going to be slower — should remain on the right-hand side. If you have to stop, pull to the nearest shoulder. If you have to stop because your child has dropped something — yep, you’ve got it — park your stroller to the side first.
Finally, when approaching an elevator, stand far enough away from the door so that exiting strollers can make their way out. A well-timed glare should be all you need to take care of those who feel the urge to skip ahead of you.
Now you carefree walkers and runners, it’s your turn.
Your guiding principle should be this: It may not look like that mother of three is in a hurry, but you can bet your bottom dollar she is. Her “hurry” just isn’t at the same speed as your “hurry.” You may pass her, but give her as wide a berth as possible — you never know when a toddler will shoot out in front of you — and merge back into the right hand lane when you’re a comfortable three paces ahead of her and her brood.
Second, stay aware. Strollers are at that perfect knee-clipping height, and a stroller-navigating mother is about as focused as a text-messaging teen driver.
And, finally, breathe. Strollers are aggravating for everyone involved. They’re hard to maneuver, they’re bulky, and they can be carrying some very bad children.
But what’s the real moral of this story?
Whether you’re a hungry cougar or a distracted human threatening my stroller and its contents, I will go after you. And you better hope all I have is a water bottle.
Next week, Mark St. John Erickson writes about another adventure with his son Owen.