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Steve Bartlett: No shoes, no shirt, no problems


I changed the calendar to April with apprehension.

Steve Bartlett: The Deep End

Not because of the CRA’s income tax deadline is pending or because my Toronto Maple Leafs appear poised to make the playoffs.

No, I dread an upcoming trip my wife and some childhood friends are taking. They’re heading to Mexico, and while they are eating nachos and sipping Corona, and I’ll be running the house alone for a week.

The cleaning or the parenting parts do not trouble me. I got those, or I believe I do.

No, I’m concerned about the anxiety my wife will feel while she really should be enjoying the sun and sand, a much-deserved break.

She’s been asking how I’ll manage, how the kids will get to school or daycare on time, how I’m going to fare brushing my daughter’s beautiful long hair each morning, and how much Domino’s Pizza they’ll be eating.

She has been saying things like, “Wait until ‘The Week The Women Went’” or “Who’s going to do all this for you? You’re getting your mother in to help, aren’t you?”

A recent incident seemed to fan her fire.

I encourage my kids to be as independent as possible, so before I took them to the grocery store last Sunday, I asked that they get themselves dressed.

“And then we’ll head to the store to give Mommy a break,” I added.

In a few minutes, they were ready and rarin’.

I love grocery shopping and trying to fill the cart with foods that are both tasty and healthy.

My kids, on the other hand, like filling it with foods that are tasty but unhealthy.

That leads to conversations, like “If you bring Cap'n Crunch into the house, Daddy will eat the whole box today” and “Fruit Roll-ups are not considered fruit under Canada’s food guide.”

My daughter, who’s four, was putting a lot of energy into unsuccessfully loading up the cart with cookies, candy and sweet cereal.

“I’m hot,” she said after a long period of criss-crossing the aisles and looking for banned substances.

I suggested she take off her jacket and then patiently waited for her to pass it to me.

My patience turned to horror as she unzipped.

She wasn’t wearing a shirt!

And she was about to prance around Sobey’s, searching for any processed food containing fructose, glucose, sucralose and all those other “ose” substances — in only winter boots and leggings!

As Shaggy used to tell Scooby, “Zoinks!”

I imagined the PA announcement: “Would the Father-of-the-Year who owns the half-dressed child please fetch her in front of the Chips Ahoy! display? … And bring paper towels.”

I also envisioned scolding looks from the other shoppers, one being a crotchety type who would raise an eyebrow, point at me and scream, “That poor girl’s dad is the editor of our newspaper!”

I stooped to my daughter’s eye level and quietly whispered that she needed to keep her jacket on and zipped up.

“Why?” she asked, channelling Rosemary Barton.

“Because you’re not wearing a shirt,” I replied. “And why aren’t you?”

She looked me in the eyes.

“I was too excited, because I was going shopping with you,” she replied.

I smiled and hugged her.

“I’m excited, too,” I whispered, “but you have to wear your jacket until we get home.”

There, it didn’t take long for my wife to discover that daddy took daughter shopping sans shirt.

“Oh my,” she said in a concerned tone, “I’m really not sure I can go away for a week.”

Not wanting to inflame the situation with one of my wisecracks, I refrained from saying the first thing that popped in my mind, which was, “Don’t worry, I’ll have my shirt together by then.”

Here’s hoping.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with TC Media. He dives into the Deep End every Monday to escape reality and turlenecks. Reach him at

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