936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
I had seen his face before. His little eyebrows furrowed in concern, his coffee brown eyes flashed a sudden panic. He was a stranger, but I knew that look far too well. I knew it because I had witnessed it plenty of times from my own son, about the same age as this little boy walking past me now.
His consternation was the response to the head shake of a grown man with gray hair tucked under a silly striped hat, and suspenders from denim overalls hooked around his shoulders.
The little boy and his mom were walking hand in hand through the market on an impossibly beautiful summer morning, and had passed by the favorite spot of the market for every little boy and girl: the train ride. The train is constructed from a decorated lawn mower, pulling a succession of brightly painted plastic barrels that have been turned on their sides and cut at a curve to create a sort of seat.
The little boy’s mom had asked the train conductor whether he accepted credit cards for the small ride fee. He had tilted his mouth into a sort of apology, and had shook his head No. I wondered how many times a weekend he had to offer the same sad news to parents holding the hands of eager little boys and girls anticipating a ride on the train.
The woman thanked the conductor, and explained that she had forgotten her cash at home. She gently tugged her young son away from the train and in the opposite direction. That is when I saw the young boy’s face contort with confusion and let down. I diverted my gaze away from his sorrow and to my own son, sitting with anticipation in his red train car, licking the lollipop that always came as a bonus for the $2 train fare.
I raised my voice with the second call, trying to catch the woman’s attention before she walked out of ear shot, or her son’s heart broke any further. She turned and caught my eyes. “Can I pay for his ride?”
Her eyes softened, she seemed a little caught off guard. “Well, sure, if you really want to!” I insisted I did, and handed the conductor two worn dollar bills. He smiled and thanked me; the relief in his face surpassed only by that of the young boy’s.
The little boy’s face lit up as he bounded to the train car he’d had his sights set on. As the lawnmower and plastic barrel train zig-zagged and loopdie-looped its way around the market street, I stood next to the woman and asked how old her son was. As I had thought, he was the same age as my Zeke.
Two dollars buys you a bargain of a train ride, and for the 5 minutes the ride lasted, I talked with the woman about raising young boys, and about the market– small talk really, but enjoyable. As the train conductor helped each child out of their train car and gave them high-fives, the mother thanked me again before retrieving her son, his face illuminated in joy.
The morning was young and glorious, and although our family usually spends these mornings at the market together, today it was just me and my firstborn. We were missing Daddy and little brother, but this was a rare treat for just the two of us to go on a market date. As Zeke finished his lollipop and offered me yet another “Thank-oo Mama for train ride!”, we made our way through the aisles of the buzzing market.
It ends up that our encounter with the woman and her young son at the train ride would not be our only friendly exchange with strangers that morning. As we gathered our produce for the week, we stopped to talk with a farmer and his wife about their asparagus crop and vineyard, they welcomed me to bring the boys by to play on their playground while my husband and I tasted some of their wines. We also met some bakers specializing in dog treats, and Zeke picked out just the right treat for our Labrador, and insisted on carrying the treasure in its little brown bag all around the market by himself.
After we had sufficiently packed the back of our car with vegetables and meat for the week, we drove a couple of miles to our favorite bread bakery. It’s one of those hidden and obscure places that, once you actually realize it’s there and walk through the door, you cross a threshold into a place of magic and wonder.
In this case, there is a few brick walls composing a small room with a wood burning stove taking up the entirety of one wall. Another wall stands background to a small counter space, the wall itself holding some simple rustic wooden shelves, home to the loaves of bread baked that morning, all of them beautifully unique and lacking a sense of uniformity. The shop is open only three days of the week, and the loaves are sold until gone, which indicates that it’s then time to close shop and hang the “Sold Out” sign on the glass door framed in pale yellow.
Fortunately, we had arrived before the dreaded Sold Out sign had been hung. We stepped inside to breathe in the warm aroma of yeast and flour. It’s an artisnal allure of the senses, one that assures anyone who finds the little shop won’t leave without a loaf of bread. After stopping to talk with the bakers for a few minutes, we made our selections and then carried our paper handle bags across the street to the creperie.
We had passed by the cement steps framed in black ornamental metal fencing a few times before, always glancing in the inviting doors and suggesting that we stop in one day. Today was that day. With my little toe-head in tow, and no schedule to abide by, we walked up the steps to the old theatre-turned-creperie and coffee house.
A kind woman was tending the flower beds just outside the door, and we stopped to say hello. She taught Zeke how to say “Petunia”, and then handed him one from the flower bed. We thanked her and then continue into the creperie. Zeke immediately eyed the bright macaroons in the bakery display case. I ordered myself a crepe and let him pick out whichever macaroon he wanted. He chose pistachio, because it was bright green, I am sure.
After we had finished our treats and with our bellies and taste buds content, we walked back out into the bright summer sun and descended the steps. The gardener was still tending to her petunias so we smiled and said hello again. She asked us how the crepe was, and I assured her it was wonderful.
After a little more small talk, I soon realized that the “gardener” was actually the owner of the creperie. She told me her story of purchasing the shop, and we sat down and talked with her for another half hour as we nibbled on our bread from the bakery across the street.
In just a couple of hours on that perfect market morning, we had stopped to talk with with a Mama of another young boy, a train conductor, farmers and wine makers, an artisan baker, and a creperie owner who loves beautiful flowers.
I taught my son the joy of stopping to meet and share the morning with new people, and that if whenever possible, you should always pay the train fare for someone in need. And my son taught me the importance of walking slowly, smelling flowers, and examining the contents of rain puddles. These are my favorite kinds of mornings.
I know we are told as children to not speak to strangers, and so we expect to teach our own children the same. And I understand that in this day and age we must be so careful to protect our children, and teach them how to be safe in public situations; how to spot threats and find help, and how to protect themselves from strangers. But I am also a strong believer that in the midst of all the ugly, all the tragic, all the unbelievable acts of this world–there is still good to be found, and it is worth the pursuit.
Their safety is my full-time job, but so is building their character into pleasant and gracious human beings that will benefit society.
I want to teach my children when it is okay to stop and meet someone new, to share a story, to hear a story, to be astounded by the stories that walk right past us every single day; the stories we’ll never know if we don’t learn to stop and say hello; to raise our eyes and make contact, to fight against the hurry of society and stop to make a friend. There are still people who would love for an interruption to their day in the form of a friendly conversation, I want to teach my sons to spot those people.
That is why instead of telling my children to never speak to strangers, while I have them young, next to me, their hands in mine, and with the perfect setting such as the market, bakery, and crepe shop, I will guide them in how to talk with strangers. How to acknowledge those we share our day with, how to ask questions and learn new things, how to seek life stories and share one of their own, and how to battle the ugly and the unfriendly of this world by putting a little bit of friendly back into it.
KC friends, if you’re in the Westside area downtown, and need an excellent crepe or the best loaf of bread you’ll ever bite into, check out the Chez Elle Creperie and Coffee House, and Fervere Bakery!
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!