Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up!

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“You’re too close to the road!” the woman shouted from the passenger’s open window, before speeding away.

I was on the sidewalk with Mark in the stroller, on Queen Street, waiting to cross at the green light.

“Did that just happen?” I asked Feng. He shrugged.

He is more patient than me with strangers’ unwanted advice, because unlike me, he is not familiar with the “toddler police”.

I often complain that, as Gail put it, people in Ottawa have no filter. Well, people in Toronto are the same—maybe even worse.

It started on our first night in Toronto. After eating out at the Spaghetti Factory on Esplanade, we went up Yonge Street and hung out at Dundas Square for a while. It was a beautiful warm spring night and Mark was fascinated by the street performers—he just stood there and danced.

“Oh my God, poor kid, how come he isn’t in bed?”

“It’s too late for you to be out, honey!”

Within two minutes of standing on Dundas Square, these are the two comments I heard, by two different people.

Mind you, it was about 10 p.m.—not 5 a.m.—and Mark wasn’t the least sleepy after the long drive from Ottawa to Toronto.

“Why don’t people mind their own fucking business?” I asked Feng. “They are making me feel bad!”

When Mark started chasing after pigeons on Dundas Square, we had “helpful” people pointing out he was going to fall because he was running to fast. Yeah, I know. Mark runs, trips and falls. And guess what? He gets up right away. That’s what kids do.

One evening, we stopped at Christie Pits Park on Bloor Street, in Koreatown. Feng and I sat on the grass as Mark ran around us. There had been some kind of gathering in the park and people were packing up. Mark was watching them folding tents and carrying boxes.

“Whose child is it? Where is your mother?”

“I’m right here,” I said. I was literally ten meters from Mark, sitting by the stroller.

“Are you watching your child?”

No, I’m immersed in War and Peace and I’m about to take a bath. Of course I’m watching Mark! I’m not going to hold his hand in a park, am I? Otherwise may as well put him on a leash.

The same happened at Yorkdale Mall, a somewhat upscale shopping mall outside Toronto where we stopped on the way back. It was 11 a.m. and the mall was very quiet. Mark was fascinated by some lights hanging from the ceiling and refused to move.

“Come on, let’s give him five minutes. We can go sit down a bit,” Feng said, pointing at a comfy couch ten meters away.

“Uh uh,” I replied. “In five seconds, someone is going to call the police for a ‘lost child’ or something.”

I hadn’t even finished my sentence when I heard a loud “you should be keeping an eye on your child!” behind me, courtesy of some woman walking by.

“Told you so!”

Seriously, what’s wrong with people? What can’t they… shut up and let us live?

You can see the complete set of pictures taken in Toronto on Flickr.

Child, Running Wild (Call 911!)

Child, Running Wild (Call 911!)

CN Tower

CN Tower

Queen Street

Queen Street

Queen Street

Queen Street

Yonge Street

Yonge Street

Chasing After Pigeons

Chasing After Pigeons

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Waterfront

Waterfront

Waterfront

Waterfront

Yonge Street

Yonge Street

Yonge Street

Yonge Street

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Eaton Centre

Koreatown

Koreatown

Family Portrait

Family Portrait

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Dundas Square

Waterfront

Waterfront

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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.

26 Comments

  1. Nowadays, people are so much more protective of their children, and others apparently. When I was a kid, growing up in Montreal, I used to walk by myself to school at 6 years old and playing outside without my parents watching me. I don’t think that my parents would do that now. Mark is so big now, such a cutie.

    • I’ll check the link later, but I know there is a debate around leaving your kid in the car for a short period of time, i.e. returning the cart. I have never really done it with Mark who can’t stand being alone but I can understand parents who do it.

      • Martin Penwald on

        How can there be a debate ? If there is no danger doing so (by no danger, I mean nothing obviously wrong can happen ; naturally, an asteroïd can hit the car when the child has been left unattended, but I don’t consider this event to be relevant here), then there is nothing to argue with.
        And yet, Mark is still young, in the above article, the child was 4 and perfectly able to support being left alone for a few minutes, nothing wrong with that.

        • I was reading an article yesterday on a US mom who was charged and convicted for… leaving her 6-year-old kid alone in a car to run a quick errand. I mean, she admits it wasn’t the best decision (long story short, it had been a long day and the kid was playing with the iPad, refused to come). But to be convicted for that???

  2. This astonishes me…maybe I’m just shy but I would never consider saying anything like that to another parent on the street. If there’s one thing being a parent has taught me, it’s that every family has its own routines, its own rules, and what works for you is practically guaranteed not to work in exactly the same package for any other family. What’s important is to find your own rhythms and patterns and run with that, and the rest of the world can make their own way. GAH.

    • We all judge, we can’t help it… but I’d rather do it in my head. I would never criticize a stranger openly like this. Maybe it’s hypocritical to still judge in my head but at least it doesn’t harm anyone.

  3. Yay – I am looking forwards to going to Toronto this week now! I know it isn’t the same, but it kind of is, when I had a horse, I met so many people who told me what I should be doing with him. It drove me mad and made me feel like such a bad horse owner that I ended up putting him in full livery, so that somebody else looked after him. Looking back, I realise that in the vast majority of cases it was them, not me. Although sometimes I guess I could be a bit sensitive. However, I always used to say to people ‘you wouldn’t tell me how to care for my child, why would you tell me what I should be doing with my horse?’ I guess I was wrong. People do tell you how to care for your children too. People don’t realise that just because they would do something differently doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways of doing things! Grrrrr…rant over.

    • I hear you, it’s not the same (Mark is a dragon, not a horse, EVERYBODY knows that :lol:) but the dynamics are similar. I’m not sure why people think they know best. I constantly doubt whether I’m doing the right thing, even though I’m a fairly confident person. Giving advice is one thing, helping is another… but unwanted advice is the worst.

  4. about your text : no comment……… you alreaydy have my position about it : desesperate !!!
    about your pictures : I always wonder how a canadian chinese french young boy can look so much as my senegalese french little boy….. Same smiles, same attidudes, same way to look at his mum, same eyes on the world, same way to stand up, to sit down, to show things with his hands, soooooo weird……… !

    • Martin Penwald on

      Excellent point !
      Probably because the notion of « races » for humans is a completely stupid idea without any scientific ground.
      Furthermore, it seems that the genome of the human species is not very diversified compared to the one’s of other living species, so it makes sense that even geographically distant people look alike. Moreover, in a lot of species, young are less easy to discriminate than adults.
      A possible explanation of the low diversification of human genome : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory

      It was a scientific nuts moment, sorry for the families, the collateral damages, etc 🙂

    • Martin Penwald on

      Oups, I reread my comment and I notice it is not as clear as I wanted it to be : when I talk of stupid, it is for the people who want to make a classification among humans according irrelevant criteria like colour of skin/eyes/hair, height, shape of the skeleton, etc, naturally not you.
      Sorry if I’ve been misunderstood.

    • I noticed this in multicultural Canada. No matter their background, kids are the same when they are young! In Mexico, Mark looked like any Mexican toddler. He was playing with a Black toddler this morning and while the shade of their skin was a bit different, their eyes, noses, etc. were the same!

      • Martin Penwald on

        Babies are little evil things.
        I’ve heard of an experiment involving children (very young, barely 1 year old if I remember correctly) of different skin color. They don’t have trouble playing with each other, but they tend to regroup with children wearing T-shirt of the same color. But color of skin isn’t relevant to choose their playmate.
        So discrimination by skin color is not innate and come only latter as a cultural or social learned behaviour.

        • Interesting! If anything, Mark seems fascinated by kids who look different (in his eyes) than him. Black kids, kids older than him, etc.

          • because I don’t receive reply notifications, I mis the whole conversation. thank you Martin Penawald for your explanations, very interesting and very true !

  5. ahhh the “toddler” police ! I used to get reprimanded everytime i would take my niece to the park or children’s museum. In the U.S., i could get away with it by speaking in French. Sigh…now i guess i will see next year…Also i wonder if there is “newborn” police? If so, i better hide in my house !

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