Walking around the streets of Philadelphia this spring, you can’t help but notice the change in weather by observing people’s fashion choices. Sleeves are shorter, pant legs disappear and the constraints of heavy, form-fitting shoes are cast away for the freedom of sandals and flip-flops. But this year, there’s one accessory that many aren’t leaving home without. It’s not a brand new handbag or item of clothing; this year’s must have accessory is a baby.
At my age, my Facebook feed is chock full of daily birth announcements. I imagine that new mothers hand off their newborns to a nurse and immediately demand their smartphones so they can post pictures and stats of their new additions. But this year, it’s impossible not to notice that you can’t swing a diaper bag around Philadelphia without hitting one of the many new parents in the baby buggy brigade.
My street alone has contributed heavily to the proliferation of babies about the city. We have an annual block party, which two years ago had no newborn attendees. Flash forward to this year’s party where there were 11 new babies. Eleven! That’s two sets of twins, six singles and one redhead.
We no longer wake to the sound of birds chirping; now it’s the sound of a baby’s wail that greets the dawn. Across the street, next door and down the road, everyone at the block party joked that there must be something in the water on our street.
This trend, however, is not isolated to my narrow road in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. The baby explosion is a citywide phenomenon. Take Rittenhouse Square as another example. The area at the Southwest corner of the Square is one of the city’s more heavily trafficked by pedestrians, because this is where the new mothers meet and relish the opportunity to chat with humans that are not 1-12 months old.
It’s unclear why this particular area attracts so many babies and their parents, but it’s a convenient area for mothers to show off their new kids, their attractive husbands in three-piece suits and to generally “ooh” and “ahh” at the infants, who I might add, are almost always very cute. You can confidently walk past that part of the park knowing that the likelihood of a little Finn or Aidan or an Emma or Abby looking upward and cooing is very high.
The parents all might just be showing up there to show off their industrial strength baby buggies. Many look to be designed by NASA, and most are surely more expensive than my first semester at college. They are fine tuned vehicles with state-of-the-art technological sophistication. I just hope that by the time I have a child, strollers come equipped with mini-bars.
Of course, I am not complaining about all the new babies in town. The fact that parents are deciding to have children in the city and then stay here indicates a vote of confidence in the safety and future of Philadelphia. It also suggests that neighborhoods will invest in more parks for kids to play, schools for kids to learn and bars where parents can escape for a well earned drink.
It seems that as long as Philadelphians continue having babies and staying local, everyone wins. Now if we could only get Mayor Nutter to consider adding buggy lanes to the sidewalks.