Buying a stroller these days is like buying a car. First off, you have to consider your family: one, two, or more kids? Lifestyle: urban or suburban? Mall rat or Jogger? Options: Sun canopy? Nap-friendly recline? Handbrake or footbrake? Telescoping handle? Rain shield? Then, there’s the most important part: the price tag. What happened to the ubiquitous plain-Jane umbrella stroller of our childhood? These days a fancy stroller could put you back $200 on the low end, to more than $1K on the high end. Can anyone say Buga-who?
With our first, I was content with the City Mini—it was like my Toyota: affordable, reliable, good enough for those Cambridge cobblestones. Plus it had that genius one-handed quick-fold. We looked at the shiny uber-fancy Uppa Baby Vista for comparison, but were turned off when even our salesperson couldn’t figure out how to fold it.
Then came our little Miss last spring, We’ve held back on the inevitable: the double stroller. Been carrying her around in the ergo, in deep denial. Last weekend we bit the bullet and lugged the family to that high-end stroller haven Magic Beans. We crossed off the side-by-side strollers given our neighborhood’s narrow sidewalks, made even narrower by tree roots or by the clutter of recycling bins on trash day. Because we opted for an all-terrain stroller, we were left to test-drive two (equally pricey) contenders: the City Select and Phil & Teds Explorer.
First: P&T’s. Our oldest called shotgun; little Miss looked a bit lost and forlorn in the back “second seat.” She was really given the shaft there. Still, we loved the P&T’s handling and cushy air tires. A bit like driving my husband’s civic—compact and peppy. But there was a space issue: we realized later that we’d risk banging her in the head if we hung the diaper bag from the stroller handles, and there would be very little room to stow a diaper bag or anything else given her legs would be in the stroller basket.
Second: City Select. We put the kids facing each other. Lots of giggles ensued. We tried tandem stadium seating, both kids facing out. Everybody looked happy, enjoying the view. Still, less assured handling, a little like driving a big SUV. Not bad at all as we went around a typical Cambridge block, but not as easy as P&Ts. But boy, that stroller basket could carry a ton of stuff, diaper bag and more…not unlike an SUV.
Though we were dragging our feet all the way to the store, the test drives ended up being tons of fun. The kids looked so cute together, especially in the City Select. But when it came time to make a decision, we were left scratching our heads. So I looked into the crystal ball called google. And came upon pages and pages and pages of online discussions singing the praises of each stroller…and others poo-pooing each of them in turn. I literally spent HOURS surfing the web, searching for the definitive answer hidden like tea leaves in those amazon.com reviews.
Why was I having such a hard time? Usually I am the queen of gut decision-making—those pro versus con lists never really help me. And I am an old pro when it comes to shopping. Just ask my husband. But this time, I was truly stumped.
Ultimately, I realized that it wasn’t about the stroller at all. Both are fancy, fully-loaded strollers. The kids would be all right in either. This was really about me. I was looking for the dream—the idea that if I bought the perfect stroller, it would solve any double trouble. I have this dream of being impeccably coiffed, manicured, and fashionably dressed (no mom jeans!), sipping my latte on a sunny day, “strolling” around with two content young children on the way to our playdate. When the reality is, I’ll probably be a bit bleary-eyed on the way to the park, with a coffee stain on my old khakis (having just spilled my coffee when the stroller went over those tree roots), all the while stopping every ten seconds to play flight attendant to two small hungry beings, distributing goldfish and sippy cups to keep the peace.
Well, in that case, I’ll take the City Select. Better to have a lot of room to stow the said provisions to keep the troops happy. Still, even with those inevitable bumps ahead, I hope there will also be a little of that spirit of our initial test drive, giggles and all. That was double happiness.