My name is Al Whittington. I just turned 34 and I am originally from Philadelphia, PA. I have been married to my wonderful wife, Alison, for 7 years this July and we have two boys; Connor just turned 3 on June 5th and Cormac will be 1 on July 5th. I moved to the DC area in high school and went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio for a year before I joined the Navy. I am a pretty complex person considering I went to a college that used to declare itself “the boot-camp for the revolution” and now have served in the Submarine Force for going on 12 years now, but there is still a lot of “granola” in this good old boy.
How long have you been babywearing?
We were originally given a Bjorn from some friends that I used on occasion (actually…a lot) and Alison had bought a stretchy wrap that I never used (although I did use her Moby around the house a bit for our second son). We eventually bought an Ergo that I liked enough, but when it came to back carrying, I was a bit nervous about Connor taking a fall, until some friends (Dana) let us give their Beco a try. After our Beco showed up, I wore Connor all the time.
How has it helped you or changed your life as a dad?
Alison fell and injured her foot when Connor was about 18 months old and I had to really step in and help with Connor and the house more. Luckily I was on shore duty and had a good bit of leave to burn. I spent about a month at home, but started getting a bit stir crazy and started taking Connor to the parks and the mall and running errands and it just kind of became natural. Carrying the boys is fun because I can get out and mallrat (favorite hobby) and still bond with my kids.
What is your favorite carrier (or carry) and why?
I really like the Beco. The internal harness gives a good feel when transitioning from back to front, but now that I have that down, my Nuzzleme Creations Stay Cool is my go-to. After Cormac was born I wanted my own carrier, not that the Beco or Ergo are bad, but I’m a guy and I wanted a “guy carrier.” I contacted NuzzleMe and asked if they could use one of my uniforms for a carrier and they were more than willing. I think that having my own carrier is kind of nice. Guys tend have a “see and be seen” attitude (I mean, come on, it’s human nature) so having a carrier that stands out and says, “I love my kids and yeah by the way, I’m a submariner and a diver” is kind of cool (yeah I know it’s dorky too).
What is your biggest babywearing accomplishment?
I think the time that I was at the carnival with Alison and the boys and a woman asked me about my carrier and I just whipped it off and made her try it with her son. I was like…You need to try this if you haven’t! ….she asked a lot of questions and was really excited by the time she had her son on her back…I think that the moment I went from someone who just carries, to an actual advocate for it, it was a big step. Now I wish I got a commission from NuzzleMe as much as I sell their product.
What has been your biggest struggle with babywearing?
I don’t really care what people think when I carry my kids…even now, if Alison and I go for a hike and Connor is done walking….right into the carrier he goes…I’m sure it looks odd to be carrying a 3 yr old…whatever… this is how we roll in our family..babywearing gets us out of the house, and lets us do things and go places you might not be able to take a stroller and since I carry too, it’s not all on Alison to keep the kids at bay or carry all the weight. I think that just being parent is hard, whether a dad carries his kid or not, it’s tough on us, moms are fierce and dads have to live in isolation at the park: “don’t look at a mom, talk to a mom, give her advice, offer her help, etc.”… it goes on and on in a dad’s head. Even the attention dads get is two ways, sometimes it’s friendly, but there are times where I have felt patronized from time to time too. It really gets under my skin when I hear, “You’ve really got your hands full.” I want to respond with, “What, do I look like I can’t handle this,” or “Maybe you can’t, but I got this…” I know I’m a big, bald, tattooed guy, but when I have a baby on my back, you should realize I’m just out doing the same thing you are, spending quality time with the kids. Dads are not out trolling or ogling and we’re just as protective of our kids as you are and we see that dude over there with no kids, wearing sunglasses and just acting like a general creeper. Maybe it’s all in my head, but there is definitely some anxiety for a dad alone at the park with his kids.
[Al wanted us to share this for additional reading on challenges… check it out, but know there’s some mild language ]
What do you want others to know about babywearing?
Do it. Guys too; it’s easier for me to get out and do things with the kids when I carry. Nowadays, I let Connor run around and “walk like a big boy” and carry Cormac, but I go shopping, play at the park, and we even go hiking at First Landing as a family. There are a lot of places you can go with a carrier that you can’t with a stroller. Its nice to follow Connor on the playground and play chasing games and Cormac is right there with us. If I hadn’t started carrying with Connor, I wouldn’t be out having fun with both kids now.
If you were on a cruise with your children heading to Europe for two weeks, what carrier would you take and why?
Do I have time to get another carrier from NuzzleMe? If not I would take the Beco so I wouldn’t be advertising my military service all over Europe.
Anything else you’d like to share about babywearing?
I’d say something witty about you girls and your wrap obsessions, but half the time I have no idea what you’re saying… it’s like you all have your own secret language sometimes.
————- Thank you for sharing with us Al! ————-