An old friend of mine tells a funny story about taking his 5-year-old daughter back to Vietnam and bringing the stroller along because he knew there would be lots of walking involved. But Vietnamese people are unaccustomed to seeing strollers, he said, would walk past his seated daughter and comment in Vietnamese, “Oh, look at the poor crippled girl.”
For those of you Dads out there with toddlers, consider leaving the stroller at home. I know it is a high-risk proposition, but I think you can build up your child’s physical stamina and mental toughness by removing from them the option of simply sitting down at the first sign of fatigue. Of course, you also have to be prepared to carry your children long distances once they have reached the point where they just can’t take another step.
Start with dumping the stroller for short, easy trips to the grocery store, the park, and other routine outings. You will ingrain the expectation with your children that they have to hoof it across parking lots, through malls, and up and down the produce aisle. From there, you’ll quickly find that your toddler can also make it further than you think through zoos, parks, and other more expansive spaces.
Kids will surprise you. I have been on outings with my two-year-old who walked the entire way on a mile-and-a-half hike through the mountains. Another time, I twisted my ankle on a long walk through the woods and my kids–who were 4 and 2 and a half were able to walk the whole way back to the car. Of course, for every triumph, there will be the opposite outcome where your child will stand between your legs with their arms extended ten seconds into the excursion.
But ultimately, dumping the stroller as early as possible is a great way to strengthen your kid’s developing legs and get them into the right frame of mind to forge ahead even when they are tired. This is good preparation for life, which often requires you to push yourself a little bit rather than simply sit down.