I should have known to expect him, considering the spring temperatures and busy ball fields. He sneaks up, catching me unprepared…then lingers for hours, like an oblivious, uninvited guest at a dinner party.
It’s your friendly, neighborhood ice cream man.
He’s deceiving: luring children in with his carnival music and colorful posters advertising products that are technically considered food, but have enough dye and preservatives to live in your freezer until your toddler graduates high school.
Sometimes he’s brazen enough to show up at school, but he’s also figured out when and where sports practices and games happen all over Maplewood and South Orange, so he doesn’t miss an opportunity to ruin any child’s dinner.
Like clockwork, he appears at every field and playground in the witching hours between 4:00 and 8:00PM to dole out his sticky snacks.
I saw him last week, lingering at the entrance to Borden Park, where my 7 year old, Aden, plays soccer. As soon as my kids saw his tantalizing truck of treats, their eyes bulged…and the nagging began.
My boys (ages 11, 7 and 5) know they don’t get ice cream before dinner. On a night with back-to-back sports commitments, dinner often happens on the fly or late, and is rarely well balanced.
I responded with a firm “no” to their puling popsicle pleas and picked up the pace as we whisked past his cart of corruption.
We jumped in the car and headed towards New Waterlands field where Aden had a t-ball game. Shortly after we settled in the bleachers, I heard that music and there he was again, that stalker.
OK, maybe it wasn’t the same guy— but does it matter? There’s always one hanging around making trouble for well-intended parents.
I turned around and shot him my dirtiest look. I wanted to be mad at him, but the problem is he’s usually so amiable. He’s no fool. Nice is what keeps the squirts coming back, smacking their lips with their fists full of dollars. Grinning and helpful, he offers scrumptious specials to kids, and napkins and exact change to parents. Don’t have enough money? No problem! You’ll get him back tomorrow.
He even gives away free candy. That’s right, every night he pulls up, and my 5-year-old runs at him like he’s his long lost buddy, with the sole intention of sweet-talking the guy into giving him “Cry Baby” gumballs. Isn’t that thoughtful?
Why shouldn’t he be nice? He’s not worrying about choking hazards and cavities. His purpose is to feed the fix. He’s pushing pushup pops! He wants them strung out on Strawberry Shortcakes! He must be stopped.
Not only is he abusing his power by handing out candy and ice cream, but he has now unwittingly turned my “no” into a “nah nah nah nah nah….I got candy!”
His agenda and mine are at odds.
I’m not saying my kids never indulge. We probably give in once or twice a week. Sometimes I even make an effort to feed my kids a meal at 430PM, so I will feel better about giving in to the ritual begging at the game.
But every night…. really? Does he always have to be parked a few yards away from my children, taunting them with his frozen folly? They can’t help themselves. They want what they see.
I’m tired of coming up with original excuses for saying no. It’s also more difficult to stand my ground when other parents are giving in. We have to create a united front! I scream, you scream, can’t we all just say no to ice cream once in a while?
In the city, you can follow fancy food trucks that travel around peddling gourmet eats (falafel, tacos, dumplings, waffles) to grownups. So why can’t someone start some kind of cool healthy truck option to cruise our fields?
The next time the Iceman cometh and my sons’ eyes light up, I’m not going to give that guy the cold shoulder. I’m going to ask him if he can start selling apple slices and baby carrots with his sweets. Then we’ll really see how nice he is.