Being a parent sometimes traps you in a moral maze as you attempt to bring your child to be a decent person, whilst also keeping them safe.
I was in the popular chain café, Esquires, (you know it, right? Esquires, it’s like My Mum’s Starbucks) with my baby, Phoebe. I bought a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant and sat at a table next to a wild looking white-haired and scraggily bearded gentleman. The discriminatory/protective part of my brain ascertained that as he looked unusual, that he might be mentally unstable and launch an unprovoked attack on my baby. I was angry with myself for these prejudiced assumptions – he’d done nothing but mind his own business - so I did not move tables. I was teaching my daughter not to judge, lest she be judged. I am not saying I am the new Jesus, that is for others to say.
I gave Phoebe some of my croissant, but not too much because I want her to grow up healthy and also I really wanted to eat it myself. Do as I say, not as I do. I think that’s one of Jesus’ too, right?
When the pastry was gone, my daughter seemed distressed so I tried to feed her some crumbs. The old man (or was he an angel sent by God to make me learn a valuable life lesson?) saw my predicament, reached into his bag, pulled out an apple Danish and ripped off a huge chunk and put it on my plate. “For her,” he said.
“Oh no thanks,” I replied, mildly horrified.
“No, please. It’s Italian,” the man insisted, as if this information somehow overrode all my concerns of giving my daughter food from a possibly crazy stranger who looked like he didn’t wash his hands.
What should I do? It would be a victory for the tiny Donald Trump portion of my brain if I allowed my latent intolerance to take control and threw this gift back in the man’s face. And yet was I willing to give my daughter food that might be ridden with germs just to give the appearance that I was a nice liberal who didn’t make judgments (even though I wasn’t and I did)?
Common sense stated that this was a kind gesture from a nice man, willing to share what little he had with my tiny child, but there was a chance he was a serial child murderer who laced his cakes with poison.
Also this was his own food. It was technically against the rules to eat it. I mean what would happen if all customers brought in their own food? The Esquires coffee chain wouldn’t be the household name that it is today.
My liberal guilt overcame my desire to protect my child and I ripped off a tiny bit of the pastry and popped it in her mouth. Then I thanked the man and said I had to go, leaving 99.9% of the Italian Danish behind.
This was the worst of both worlds. I had fed my daughter the potential poisoned food and offended the man by leaving most of it. I spent the next 30 minutes imagining how angry my wife was going to be with me when I brought home a poisoned/dead baby.
But as it turns out nothing bad happened to Phoebe, so the man had been innocent, as I should have assumed. If he was an angel testing me then I am nearly all going to Hell, except for a tiny bit of me which will be ripped off and tentatively allowed into Heaven.
Heavily into the Happy Now? Tour at the moment. I’ve been eating a lot of service station sandwiches. On the way from Edinburgh to York we stopped off at Penrith for lunch at The Bewick Coffee House. We had some lovely hot food and the staff were friendly and cheekily funny. They brightened up our day. So if you’re in Penrith and missing home-cooked food, then pop into the Bewick!