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"Where is his hat?" has been dethroned

My old pet peeve was strangers coming up and asking where my son's hat was when he was tiny. Being a late July baby, he was about Leda's age when I'd pop him in the carrier to go along on a dog walk (because I'm a responsible parent who doesn't leave babies home unattended). Invariably it's a woman--sorry, ladies. Invariably older. Again, sorry.

Now that Cole is older and in the stroller being a wiggle worm, I have Leda in the baby carrier on my front. So now a trip down the street to the playground has me looking something like a cross between a street vendor and a pack mule.

And it happened yesterday afternoon on a walk to pickup Kelly from her working at the library (she's not a librarian, just goes there because it's quiet). Though it has happened a number of times since I've been on my own with the kids. They mean well. No different than the "hat folk."

"Oh, wow, you've got your hands full."

I cringe. Today's poor lady actually got a kind of icy stare and mumble. My usual reply is "yep, always!" I just couldn't muster the energy today. Not because I was tired.

No, today I realized these people have nothing better to say to me.

Think about it. You're passing a stranger on the street on a beautiful, sunny, mild day in the middle of winter. You see a family out walking and what's your line? What's your passing small talk to make nice and smile?

Yep, that's pretty much where I'm weather? Not "have a nice walk!?" Not "such a nice day to get out of the house!?" Nope.

You see a guy with a baby strapped to his front, pushing a stroller, and the first thought that crosses your mind is how difficult that must be.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun here. Maybe she's got six kids at home and completely--completely--understands where I'm coming from. I usually do give the benefit of the doubt.

The reality is that dads with a stroller OR a baby carrier--forget both--are a rare item even in socially progressive, forward-thinking, blue state Chicago. I don't expect society to quickly change or the perceptions of dads as capable caregivers to change.

All I want is next time you see a dad out with the kids, don't assume he's miserable, over his head, or doing it against his will. I'm proud to say my walk with the kids was typically pleasant, totally under control, and I volunteered for this gig.