Candy from Strangers

I took the kids on some errands this morning and walked by a church sponsored group home where some school-aged children were carrying in large cartons of homemade cookies. It reminded me of my attempt at baking cookies with my daughter to hand out in the park. I don’t bake cookies very often and the first attempt was not a batch of anything I was willing to give to strangers.

A block later a woman came up to us and handed me an unopened box of Belgian chocolates. She kept on talking about giving them to the “kiddies.” I thanked her, but wondered why she gave them to us. I couldn’t tell if she was from the neighbourhood or not by the way she was dressed and we went different ways so I didn’t learn anything else about her.

Though I’ve never been offered anything like candy before on our walks through town, we always received some other positive reaction. Some of the comments I receive are clearly because I’m a man carting around two small children. I’ve been called Mr. Mom on more than one occasion. Men often say something about me having my hands full. Of course, walking around with a one year old and a three year old is not unusual at all, but I guess the main issue is that I’m a man doing the walking around.

The other main reactions I receive have to do with the reactor’s own experiences as a parent. Several women have commented on our stroller. It’s a Phil & Ted’s double stroller which is, admittedly, a fantastic design. These women recall aloud their own times with two young kids and wish they had had a stroller like mine back then.

The men might marvel at the stroller, but generally volunteer the number and age of their kids. The men normally don’t look much older than me, but their kids might be as old as 25, though they are usually teenagers.

Last week I was walking through the park with my son in the baby backpack and my daughter holding my hand when an older man walked up behind me and said, “My daughter’s 41.”

“Wow,” I said, not knowing how else to respond.

“I’ve got a grandson who’s 23.”

“Well,” I said, doing the math in my head.

“They grow up fast,” he continued.

Was this an observation, a warning, or a complete non sequitur? I have pushed my kids around in Paris, London, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and other neighbourhoods in Vancouver and this is the only place where so many conversations begin because of the mere presence of my kids. I will not hesitate to say that the conversations are mainly positive. The people smile at them and laugh sometimes and it’s possible that it’s one of the only times they smile or laugh all day. And of course, when people smile at little kids, that usually makes the little kids happy as well. And even though I haven’t yet made good on those cookies I wanted to bake, I feel that at least I’ve been able to bring the kids around.

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About azlewis

I'm an academic living in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. I also teach at a local seminary.
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