A few weeks ago, my wife pointed out that I had something stuck on my chin.
She politely attempted to brush it away, but she had no luck. It appeared this was one stubborn crumb, most likely the sticky residue from multiple bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. She tried brushing harder, but the spot remained in place. She examined the foreign object with a perplexed look on her face, unsure what could be stuck on my face. Then she pulled back with a slight look of embarrassment on her face.
“Oh, that’s a grey piece of stubble on your chin,” she announced.
That comment hit me like a ton of bricks — even though the signs of old age have been creeping up on me for years: the obligatory purchase of an ear and nose hair trimmer; complaining about loud music inside a bar; and uttering phrases like, “Why do I have so many damn passwords?”
I’ve tried to ignore these warning signs, but the grey piece of stubble on the beard is a game-changer. It sits there on my chin taunting me. “Ha! Think how ridiculous you’ll look if you try and grow a goatee,” it says — knowing damn well that the three or four flecks of grey will stand out amid the sea of black. My dream of being the lead man in a Hootie and the Blowfish cover band has officially died.
While getting a few new pieces of grey hair has certainly caught my attention, it also served to prepare me for the next step in my rapid ascension towards middle age: making regular trips to the farmers' market.
Ten years ago, I would have scoffed at the suggestion of making a visit to a farmers' market. If I wanted to waste a Saturday afternoon, I would do it by playing Madden on my Playstation while eating a bucket of fried chicken. The idea of sampling different types of local honey while aimlessly browsing through a crowded marketplace was simply not appealing.
But then slowly, my resistance started fading. When you reach your mid-30s and you have kids, you soon realize that you don’t get to dictate what happens with your weekends. Somebody is always making “a plan.” And you quickly learn that you don’t get much input into that plan.
So now my weekends are filled with activities that I once thought were laughable.
“Why don’t we go apple picking on Sunday?”
“The weather is supposed to be nice, why don’t we have a picnic?”
“Let’s a do a nature hike.”
“We could visit Upper Canada village.”
“I think the farmers' market is open on Sunday.”
(Note — none of these quotes actually came out of my mouth.)
I’ve come to realize that these activities can be mildly enjoyable — if you have the right attitude. Which again, is another way of saying that I’m getting older.
I’ve tried to convince myself that the farmers' market is actually a food fair. Any place that sells French fries and mini-donuts from a truck can’t be that boring, right? I tell myself that it’s like a trip to an amusement park — without the rides.
When I’m at the farmers' market, I often make eye contact with other dads who are in the same boat as me. We silently nod at each other; each person acknowledging the fact that we’d rather be sitting at home watching football on the couch. Dads who show up to the farmers' market don’t need to wear a wedding ring, because everybody knows that you’re in a full-time, committed relationship if you’re spending your Sunday carrying a bag full of jam and relish.
Earlier this month, we were in Edmonton for a visit to see Sonia’s family. We were trying to decide what to do on a Sunday afternoon, when the idea of going to the St. Albert farmers' market was broached. Instead of fighting it — like I would have when I was 25 — I just went along for the ride.
I’ve learned that by tagging along for a trip to the farmers' market, you can build up some serious credit in the relationship bank. A couple of days after that trip, I had a chance to go golfing with my brother in-law.
Usually Sonia throws up serious resistance to my plans to spend an entire day on the golf course. But since I had put in adequate family time at the farmers' market, I was free to enjoy 18 holes without any of the usual guilt. If you can grit your teeth through a family activity, it should pay off for you down the road as a dad.
As we hit Labour Day weekend, I’m sure fathers out there will be dragged to parks, museums and farmers' markets — as families try and squeeze out some quality time at the end of the summer. If you blow it off to play video games and eat fried chicken, kudos to you. That means you’ve still got some years ahead of you.
Read more: 10 ways to spend Labour Day weekend>
But if you have no choice — like most dads and husbands — try and suck it up and enjoy it. And remember that for every trip to the farmers' market, you should get some time back to yourself to watch football on the couch or play a round of golf.
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