To the woman carrying her small child on her back, without the assistance of a carrier, across the 14th St. Bridge in northwest Calgary last Wednesday:
Thank you for sharing your love with your child, and also with rush house traffic on busy 14th St NW. You were dressed so stylishly, in a long, patterned silk skirt, funky leather boots, angular glasses and bluntly chopped hair. I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover but if I had seen you at a coffee shop or in a bookstore or walking in the +15, I wouldn’t have guessed you’d be the type to shamelessly piggyback your kid along a busy street during rush hour. I would have thought you’d be pushing an expensive stroller (who cares if your child is four? All the other 4-year-olds get a ride), driving your Lexus home to West Hillhurst with a Britax convertible booster seat secured in the back seat, or at the very least, letting her walk on her own, no matter how long it took to get across that bridge.
Every parent has been there at some point. A child, whether they’re a toddler, preschooler, or years older, gets too tired. They start to get whiny. Their feet hurt, their legs hurt, they’re hungry, they can’t go any further. Of course, it would appear that your trip was longer than most of us would attempt with a young kid. I’m guessing you had walked at least 6-8 blocks already based on where you were. You might have just been out for a stroll but it looked like you had each spent the day doing your own thing, and the nearest buildings were a few blocks from the other side of the bridge. You had another couple of blocks to go, at least, until any streets with houses on them.
I walked behind you all the way across the bridge, gaining on you until I was only a few metres behind you but then turning off onto a pathway once we reached the mouth of the bridge. You carried your little one graciously, not complaining, not even looking uncomfortable, even as they slipped a little lower every few steps, didn’t hold on or do their part to hold themself up. They were in play clothes, a bright pink jacket, snow boots. They just kept… slipping a little lower… slouching down, until they were hanging, ankles/calves tucked in at your elbows, and you would slow down, give a big bounce and shrug and hike them back up again, and keep going. All the way across the bridge you kept going. You didn’t say anything to your child and you didn’t stop to rest.
I tried to figure out what to say to you. A flash of solidarity of some sort? Maybe a fist pump. Or a little smile and “Been there.” With a wink? Nah, it all seemed contrived.
So in the end I just made eye contact with you, smiled, and went on my way.
Seeing your moment with your child made me feel so happy and hopeful, though, and I wanted you to know. You were just being a parent. Doing what needed to be done, without complaining. Not because you’re a martyr, but because your child was tired and they needed help and you really didn’t mind. And I like to think that you really treasured that time, too, and that a few years from now you’ll look back and be glad that you carried them when they needed to be carried.