It’s not often that an opinion piece in the Reflect section of ST’s Sunday Life! will get any noticeable attention (although once in a while you can still count on Sumiko Tan to let some air out of her head). But this week, one did. Titled “Some parents’ overuse of prams is a truly distressing social ill“, Jeremy Lee has inadvertently set forth “a ruckus… on how insensitive a childless person like me is to parents who are doing their Singaporean duty of going forth and multiplying“.
As the quote implies, dude knew what was coming for sure. But The Blogfather would like to say some things in his defence.
First, it’s strollers, not prams.
Second, he’s a horrible writer.
Third, I agree with him.
You might say at this point that these points of defence seem absolutely ridiculous, but based on experience, you should know the Blogfather better than that already, don’t you?
1. Too many assumptions
Jeremy Lee’s first mistake was refer to our child movers prams and subsequently going on a pedantic spew on the entomology of the term “perambulate” without realising there is a difference.
Prams are those big, bulky bassinets on wheels for newborn babies, not very popular in Singapore because they are really expensive and are really only usable in the first 3-5 months of a baby’s life.
Strollers are the foldable canvas chairs on wheels with seats belts and adjustable seating/lying
positions that can be folded flat or even umbrella-style, and have a much longer usage period (up to 4 years by most manufacturers’ recommendations). With this understanding of the terms, you’d naturally see strollers a lot more than you’d see a pram.
Semantics, you say? It’s actually a tell-tale sign that this writer doesn’t have all his wits about him, because there’s more.
He also makes reference to remembering himself “running everywhere at the age of three or four“, and then goes on to share his kindergarten principal friend’s anecdote, applicable to a demographic that’s a year or two above the kids he’s trying to refer to. That one or two years makes a huge difference in a child’s physical development, and while kids most definitely are able to run everywhere, kids of ages 3 to 4 neither have the energy levels to keep doing it for the duration of, say, a shopping mall outing, nor the self-control or awareness of his or her surroundings to not stray too far or get lost (Chermaine of Becoming Mam sums up these reasons and more in her response to Jeremy), while kids aged 5 and up have significantly longer-lasting batteries and better listening skills (arguable, I know). This is something that only a person that has spent copious amounts of time with a child or 20 will know (notice I didn’t say parents), but at the same time does take more than a stroller or 20 to resolve (see point 3 below).
2. Jeremy Lee sucks as a writer
Someone said to me that Jeremy’s article was “a flaunting of his English prowess to put down people, and insensitive.”
If your intention is to drive a point or three across to a discerning audience, drive the point without clouding your opinion with your arrogance. You’re a salaried SPH journalist, not a blogger.
Worse, Jeremy writes under the assumption (again) that readers will ingest his every word, when journalism students are taught that people don’t read more than 60% of anything that they write in any given article; a fact that is especially prevalent on web publications. So “slip(ping) in the small observation that most of these prams that (he has) seen… do not actually have babies in them“, and interjecting phrases such as “I feel”, I always think” and “in my humble opinion” (ugh) doesn’t water down what looks to be a misguided opinion piece published on an established national media platform (to which I must say, Jeremy’s editors have as much to blame for allowing this travesty to see the light of day).
There’s a reason why columnists have to serve years on ground beats as junior writers before they are given the right to publish opinions on a newspaper.
3. Why the Blogfather still agrees
However, I do empathise with Jeremy. There’s a particular subset of parents who do mollycoddle their offspring to a point where self-respecting parents really wonder how the generation we’re bringing up is going to turn out (and whether it is going to involve strawberries, too).
They wilfully use their strollers to clear paths for themselves without care nor courtesy for other pedestrians, regardless if its occupant is a baby, a kindergartener or 8 Fairprice plastic bags of groceries.
They value their child’s well-being and right to exist over any other individual in their immediate midst – even themselves, and have honed their skill of shooting dirty looks at anyone who disapproves to the calibre of an MI5 sniper.
They’re also not that common, because us family people are by and large nice, considerate folks that will feel embarrassment and say sorry up to 3 times for accidentally touching our stroller wheel on a stranger’s shoe. But because of the nature of their parenting beliefs, they make themselves very visible to anyone and everyone that encounters them. In some circles I hang out in, they might even be referred to as “the vocal minority”.
Stroller usage is especially prevalent here in Singapore (as opposed to say, Bangkok) given the government’s very successful barrier-free program that now not only gives the disabled easier access to anywhere and everywhere, but also parents with strollers to wheel freely around with the assistance of ramps and lifts.
From a macro viewpoint, given the government’s strong support for families in both national policy and infrastructure, Singaporean parents do feel an elevated sense of entitlement – in some parents (and a rather obnoxious selection at that), an exaggerated sense of entitlement.
In the context of Jeremy’s article, that’s where the “pram rage” phenomenon comes from (because “stroller rage” doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely), and that, in my humble opinion, is the true source of Jeremy’s ire. So for most of us parents who aren’t obnoxious pram-rage drivers, don’t worry. Jeremy isn’t talking about you.
But for the quality of his article, evidently Jeremy doesn’t entirely know what he’s talking about; he’s made too many blind, honest mistakes in his article to be taken seriously.