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Dear Stranger, Thank You For Random Baby Tips… NOT

Self Portrait, Toronto, September 2013
Self Portrait, Toronto, September 2013

I’m sitting at the very top of the Mcdonald’s “Playland” structure and I’m watching the sun setting on Merivale Road. This unusual viewpoint offers an almost scenic view of one of the busiest thoroughfares in Ottawa with bumper-to-bumper traffic and old-fashioned neon signs.

But I can’t let my mind wander for too long—Mark is trying to climb down the slide and a little blond girl has been staring at my feet for about three minutes.

“I have the same socks,” she eventually volunteers.

“Really? There are cool socks, aren’t they!”

“Santa brought my socks last year,” she adds. “At my grand-ma’s house. But he also brought the same pair at my mum’s house. Bad Santa!”

I nod in assent. I can’t help feeling sorry for her. I mean, socks as a Christmas gift for a four-year-old, really? That sucks.

Kids like talking to me. Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a little girl about how to use a broken magnifier to start a fire. Don’t worry—I didn’t give her any tips.

Because Mark is still young, I shadow him everywhere, including in places where I’m obviously not supposed to be—inside the tiny house at the playground or at the very top of the Mcdonald’s play structure.

About that… how am I going to go down with Mark?


One of these days, I’m going to get stuck in the slide.

Oh well.

Meanwhile, at least, I don’t have to make conversation with other parents. I only interact with kids. I like it that way because, for some reason, random strangers love doling out advice, solicited or otherwise.

Maybe I look lost. Maybe I look like I need guidance.

Really folks—I don’t.

Old lady in the checkout line at the supermarket: “You know, you should take up a hobby. Knitting for instance. You could knit something nice for your baby when he is sleeping.”

(Yes, of course. I’m not busy enough with a full-time job, the daily chores and taking care of Mark. I could totally knit onesies between 1 am and 6 am.)

The doctor when we went for Mark’s one-year visit: “Oh, you are so lucky your husband is taking time off work to come with you! I bet daddy is very busy with his job and the baby!”

(First, welcome to the 21st century. Second, I have a fucking job too, woman. “Daddy” does his job and I bloody well expect it!)

Cashier at Shoppers Drug Mark: “Oh my! Your son is big! My sister was big too. You should see her now—she is at least 300 pounds. A shame, really. She could have been pretty.”

(This one left me speechless. Should I say it again, my son is not a fucking sumo wrestler? And for the record, he weighs 10.4 kilos, right on the growth curve. Oh, and I bet you are a complete bitch to your sister.)

Two ladies at the supermarket: “How old is he?” “He has just turned one.” “Are you sure?”

(I think I remember the day I gave birth. And Mark has never been away from me long enough to be switched with another baby, so yeah, I’m pretty sure I know how old he is.)

Mother at the park: “Really, his dad is Chinese? That’s so strange. He looks so… non-Chinese. You look Chinese, though.”

(Please, go to Chinatown and check out what Chinese people look like. Me? Nope, I don’t look Chinese. Really.)

My in-laws: “Aya! He is cold! Put more clothes on him!”

(Please, go ahead, and do so. I’d love to see you wrestle with him. Oh, and by the way—three pairs of pants layered is a bit too much. He can’t bloody move. Just saying, just saying…)

Mother at the park: “Can he really walk? I mean, he is crawling right now. Doesn’t seem to walk much, does he!”

(Do we really have to prove to you he can walk? If so, are we getting a gold medal at the baby Olympics? Or are we just competing for no reason?)

So yeah, chatting with other kids is strangely relaxing compared to that. Now if I could find a way out of Mcdonald’s “Playland”…

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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