… And More Idiotic Strangers!

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Toronto, May 2014

Toronto, May 2014

Since the weather is nice now, Mark and I spend a lot of time outside. I still avoid the playground as much as I can but I take him downtown, to museums, in shops, or just for walks around the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones out: the toddler police is patrolling in Ottawa…

Here are some of the interactions with complete strangers we had lately.

WHERE I AM NO FUN

(Mark and I are in the bus. Mark is quiet—he loves riding the bus!—and he is sitting beside me, by the window.)

Passenger: “You should get him to stand on the seat so that he could look out the window.”

Me, with a smile: “I’d rather him to sit properly. We take public transportation a lot so it’s better to train him to behave.”

Passenger, snarky: “Uh! You’re not exactly a fun mother, are you!”

(Bitch. If Mark would have stood up on his seat, I bet she would have complained about it.)

***

WHERE I SHOULD PUT MARK ON A LEASH

(We are stepping into Walmart.)

Greeter: “Do you want a cart for your kid?”

Me: “Oh, no, thank you. He can walk.”

Greeter, in a very unfriendly tone: “Well, you’d better keep an eye on him then!”

(Mmm… when was the last time I let Mark run wild in the store? Oh, right: never.)

***

WHERE FENG IS APPARENTLY A CLUELESS FATHER

(I am getting a coffee at Starbucks, inside Chapters. Mark and Feng are waiting for me by the door. After placing my order, I go check on the guys.)

Woman behind me: “Mother! The kids section is upstairs. This way.”

I am assuming the middle-aged woman is talking to her mother and I barely register what she is saying. She grabs my arm.

Woman: “Mother! The section for kids is upstairs. And like I was telling your husband, your child shouldn’t be playing by the doors. He might trigger the alarm. Your husband let him push the door.”

(Oh, and she was a customer, not a Chapters employee, which would have made more sense.)

***

WHERE SHOPPING BASKETS ARE OFF-LIMIT

(I’m queuing at the cash register at the supermarket. I put my shopping basket on top of the stack, at the end of the  register, and I’m waiting for the person in front of me to pay to unload it. Mark is holding onto my basket because putting the items on the conveyor belt is usually his job. A man comes behind us.)

The man to Mark: “Don’t touch.”

(I assume he needs a basket from the stack and I lift mine.)

The man, again, talking to Mark: “No. Don’t touch the baskets.”

Me: “I’m sorry, do you need one?”

The man: “No. I just don’t want him to touch the baskets.”

(No explanation was ever given. Again, he was a customer, not an employee.)

***

WHERE THE SUN IS EVIL

Our neighbourhood has a yearly garage sale. This year, I put some of Mark’s baby clothes for sale—I am not a huge fan of garage sales but the weather was nice and I thought Mark and I could play outside for a bit, on the front lawn.

Well, five (I counted!) different passersby instructed me to “put Mark in the shade” because “it was too hot”.

Never mind that I can’t really “put” Mark in the shade—he has two legs and tends to, you know, not stay at one place for very long… Oh and by the way, he did have sunscreen on, he was drinking water regularly and this is Canada, not the freaking Sahara desert!

***

WHERE EVEN BUSKERS KNOW BEST

(In Kensington Market, in Toronto, we queued to get Mark one of these “animal balloons”. The buskers ranted and ranted and sounded like he was high on helium or something. Finally, it was Mark’s turn.)

The busker handing out a bottle of sunscreen: “Did you remember to put sunscreen on your kid this morning?”

Me: “… Can you just make him a balloon?”

***

WHERE CIVIC DUTY DOESN’T TRUMP CHILDCARE

(I was watching the evening news when I realized I had completely forgotten I had to vote for the Ontario elections. I rushed to the polling station, still open.)

Me, joking: “I’m glad you’re still open! I have no excuse other than the fact I have a toddler and that most of the time, I don’t even know which day we are.”

The volunteer at the polling station: “Who is taking care of your child right now? How come he isn’t with you? You didn’t leave him home alone, did you?”

(In case you were wondering, no, Mark wasn’t home alone. He was with my in-laws that day. Gee.)

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

30 Comments

  1. Some of these are hilarious – the guy who told you off about the shopping baskets is so funny, I would have laughed in his face! And the busker too!! I would have been seriously pissed off by some of the others though. Why do people not have a clue?!

    • The thing is, alone, I would probably say something witty (or not so polite). But I don’t want to start engaging the crazies with Mark around.

  2. Martin Penwald on

    Ho, an idea : buy a ninja costume for Mark, so none of his skin is exposed to sun (it seems there is a recurrent occurence here). Including a really sharp sword, for fun.

    I still maintain that a baby leash is the best solution : when someone criticizes where Mark is, just give them the leash. « Your turn ! »

  3. Your stories are really incredible. I thought Canadians are friendly, apparently not when it’s about children. I guess I prefer to raise my kids in France. At least, I have never received any comments from the strangers. The French tend to mind their own business. Of course, I don’t go to any brasserie /resto with my kids excep McDo.

    • I think the problem with Canadians is that sometime, they are too friendly. These folks really think they are being helpful. French do tend to mind their own business (or they complain about X and Y later, no in front of you).

      • Well, the French have no problem telling me when I’ve been gaining weight (my mother-in-law) or that the croissants I have just bought are will make me fat (that was in the lift of my residence). I already know I have a little extra weight on me, why do they have to remind me? So no, they don’t always mind their own business.

        • Seriously? Wow. Never had to deal with this kind of comments in France… well, maybe in high school, where, you know, teens kind of lack basic etiquette skills.

          The worst part is, now that I have seen pictures of you, is that you really don’t look fat. I’m not saying it’s okay in any way, but I would understand better (in a very twisted way) if you were a very big person. I always feel sorry for big folks at the food court when they are eating (duh, everyone needs to eat) and you can see some strangers silently judging them, as in “huh, she does *not* need a large combo!”

          I can see French salesperson being snotty. I remember that last year, at Naf Naf, the salesperson told me that the jeans I had picked looked very small (while eyeballing me). I actually found it hilarious because I was really skin and bones, not an healthy weight, at 52 kg I had never been that thin. Look, honestly, if I can’t fit in your jeans, honestly, 75 % of women probably can’t either and the problem is the jeans you are selling. I ain’t going on diet for your brand 😆

          • Even my Canadian friend who came to visit was privy to these remarks. She went to the boulangerie and came back with croissants and in the lift some stranger told her that croissants will make her fat.

            Did you read CrystalgoestoEurope’s experience with the gynaecologist? She went there to this doctor for a check-up not for a lecture about not wanting children. As if it was the doctor’s business.

            I think French people make remarks just like Canadians do. The difference is that most Canadians making these remarks honestly think that they are helping you (they should think more before they talk, though), while the French think it’s because your stupid and don’t know any better that they belittle you.

          • Maybe I don’t notice because I no longer live in France. Sigh. So stupid strangers are everywhere…

        • Martin Penwald on

          It is not because she is French that your in-law was irrespectful. It was because she is your in-law (and you steal her little baby boy).

          • Martin: I made my mother-in-law sound like a heartless monster. Actually, she’s one of the best mother-in-laws in the world! I really don’t think she one of those hovering mothers and she doesn’t make me feel that I stole her son.

            Seriously, I know that French women can be direct when it comes to eating and weight. Sure, there are fat French women as well, but I live in a city (Bordeaux) and an area where there are few overweight women. Quite the opposite actually – I know so many underweight women here. I’ve had years of feeling their eyes staring at my body. In Canada we are taught from a young age that “It’s not polite to stare.”

          • It’s funny, I never thought of it this way. I know every single French woman seems to want to lose weight but I didn’t know they would comment so openly on other people’s!

      • Martin Penwald on

        It is something I notice, be called by your supposed occupation. For example, it happens relatively often that I am called ¨driver¨ (by police officer, plant employee or other driver, in fact).
        I guess it is the same pattern here.

        Or maybe she confounds you with a nun.

        • Ben voilà, c’est moi, dorévavant j’exige qu’on m’appelle la “mère supérieure” 😆

          I have never heard anyone calling people by their occupation, except “doctor so or so”. I wouldn’t even call a nurse “nurse!”.

          I can imagine the conversation…

          “Drug dealer?”

          “Yeah investment banker?”

          “2 grams.”

          “Oh fuck, policeman!”

          • Martin Penwald on

            Mouarf, excellent !

            I don’t know in fact if it happens for other jobs (however, note that when talking to a policeman, it doesn’t seem akward to say ¨officer¨, where in France we’ll say « Monsieur l’agent » ). And it probably works for nurse too.

            Mère supérieure, ça me fait invariablement penser à la réplique de Louis de Funès dans « Un gendarme en ballade » : Elle est forte, celle-là !

  4. Some of these are mental! I can sort of understand strangers commenting if a child is misbehaving (not that Mark was), and I’m sure things like the shade and the sunscreen comment are well meant, even if they’re really annoying, but telling you you’re not a fun mother? That’s so ridiculous!

  5. Wow ce ne sont pas des moments plaisants…(Désolée du langage) mais ça donne quasiment envie de leur dire à chacun de ces inconnus “mais je t’emmerde”…

  6. I refuse to comment your articles about todder police !!!! I’m too angry and want to kill everybody !!!! Our first days in france were really horrible, todder police is everywhere on summertime and in cities… and for the records : I did not speak with anyone in playgrounds !!! Can I join your club ??!
    Ps : can you send me your postal address because i have a little package for mark, i couln’t find your email adress on your blog but i might be blind… (petiteyaye@gmail.com) thx.

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