This opinion piece was first published in the Reflect section of SundayLife! on Aug 3.

Some parents' overuse of prams is a truly distressing social ill

Step into any shopping mall in Singapore on a weekend or public holiday and one faces a battle of epic proportions.

Apart from the usual hordes of shoppers, there lurks a greater menace: Prams.

But before a ruckus erupts on how insensitive a childless person like me is to parents who are doing their Singaporean duty of going forth and multiplying, let me just slip in the small observation that most of these prams that I have seen… do not actually have babies in them.

I feel that some parents' overuse, and misuse, of prams is a truly distressing social ill.

I have encountered criss-crossing convoys of prams bearing down walkways, their pushers using them as battering rams to clear the crowd before them, leaving those who just have their own two legs desperately trying to avoid being mowed over.

Sometimes, the pushers don't even have the decency to utter words of contrition.

A friend once had his foot rather painfully rolled over by a pram, with its pusher only spewing sounds of annoyance at the foot that dared to get in its way.

Worse, these pesky perambulators also contrive to take up much space in the lifts. The buggys have now turned into luxury models, with more bells and whistles than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The wait for a lift on a busy weekend can already be interminable, but finding yourself unable to get in after waiting for ages, due to one of these "S-Class" prams, can literally drain the colour from your face.

I have seen such monsters and their associated adornments take up space in a lift that could have fit four people. Such a small human being, but it takes up so much space, I always think.

More annoyingly, though, a great number of prams I have seen in public seem to be used for nothing more than as shopping carts, with the children that they're meant to be transporting often being carried or merrily skipping alongside the hefty purchases.

Some other prams I've seen do actually have humans in them, but I do not consider them "babies" as it's obvious that they are old enough to actually walk.

In my humble opinion, as soon as a child can walk without falling flat on his face, he's too old to be pushed around by his loving but perhaps misguided parents.

Unfortunately, many parents don't seem to share my view. Once, in Orchard Cineleisure, I saw a girl who looked to be close to primary school-going age sitting in a pram pushed by a struggling young woman. The girl was wearing heels and absorbed in her iPad, oblivious to the world. If the girl can wear heels, surely she can walk in them? Or perhaps she's too busy playing Candy Crush to actually pound the pavement?

The root word of "perambulator", which "pram" is a contraction of, is "perambulate", which means "To walk, wander, or travel from place to place", according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

"Perambulate" is, in turn, derived from "ambulate", which means "to walk". Isn't it ironic that a pram now ensures children don't walk?

As far as my memory serves me, I was running everywhere at the age of three or four , and it was my parents who got tired trying to keep up.

My mother tells me I never sat in a pram as soon as I could walk. Are the children nowadays somehow weaker or less healthy? Or was I just special, imbued with almost-superhuman reserves of energy?

A good friend of mine, a kindergarten principal with about 15 years of teaching experience in the childcare and kindergarten industry, has seen many children who have been energetically running and climbing all day only to hop into a pram when their parents arrive to pick them up.

Did they suddenly and inexplicably become very tired as soon as their parents appeared with a pram or did the appearance of the "mothership" induce a reverential stupor?

I fear that we are doing more harm than good to the next generation by mollycoddling them. I'd rather my children build up their muscles, take a few knocks even, so they can get used to using their limbs at a young age, rather than become fully grown "invalids".

And if people can't help but push their children around, is it too much to ask that they do it with a little more graciousness and sensitivity towards the people around them who are inconvenienced, rather than just expecting the world to give way?

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Editor's note:
"The Straits Times policy is to publish a variety of views, so long as an opinion isn't rude, distasteful and contrary to public order.

Mr Lee's article was clearly not anything of that sort.
Nor did it detract from our long-standing position as a pro-family newspaper.
We are happy to run views that disagree with those of our writers if they add to the discussion on the topic."

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