Babies. They are magnets for all sorts of people. In line at the grocery store, sitting in a restaurant, walking down the street — it doesn’t matter. If you have a baby in tow, chances are, people are going to flock to you.
Most of the time, their interactions are harmless. Fellow parents in the thick of it will try to guess how many months old they are. Teenage girls will pat each other on the arm and squeal, “Look! How cuuuuuute!” Little old ladies or couples in their golden years will come up, ooh and ahh at your precious bundle, and make remarks about how these years go by too fast and how you should cherish them to the fullest, sometimes even pulling out photos of their grandchildren and recalling when their own children were just as small.
These people mean well. They see a baby and can’t help themselves. Usually, it’s no big deal — just strangers wanting to make small talk or reminiscing about the past. Usually.
Once in a while, though, you’ll encounter the stranger who crosses boundaries like a runaway train off its track, getting all up in your baby’s face and manhandling his squishy parts. And you have to try your hardest not to smack this person upside the head and demand they remove their mitts pronto.
What makes people think this is OK? I seriously want to know. Because Christ on a cracker, I would never approach a complete stranger’s child and proceed to spread my public germs all over him or her. We’re perfectly capable of keeping our distance when it comes to strangers’ dogs, careful not to get too close or to extend a hand unless the owner says it’s OK.
So why not with babies? Is it because they don’t bite? I wouldn’t be too sure, people. I’ve seen plenty of chompy babies, and even if mine isn’t a biter, I’m sure we could make some sort of arrangement.
Any halfway intelligent person should know that babies are particularly susceptible to disease and infection, especially because they haven’t had all their vaccinations yet (or any at all). We’re all good on the flu and measles, thank you. You can keep those for yourself.
And what about personal space? What is this? Adults get bubbles, but babies don’t? They don’t need you to be two centimeters from their faces to understand that you’re trying to interact with them. And they sure as hell don’t need you pinching their cheeks and shaking their arms all around in a pathetic attempt at Pat-a-Cake.
Just the other day, a woman approached my 9-month-old while we were out to dinner, shoved her face in his, and began asking him passive-aggressive questions really aimed at my husband and me: “Why do you have that thing in your mouth? You don’t need a pacifier. What, Mom and Dad don’t feed you?”
“He’s already eaten,” I said.
“Oh. You must be nursing, then?”
“Uhh, no?” I replied.
“Hmph,” she grumbled, returning to her assault on my offspring.
As soon as she and her husband had ceased their close-talking and infant-grabbing, my husband and I looked at each other incredulously. “Whhhhhhhat in the hell just happened?” my husband asked.
“What, the molestation of our youngest child? I know!” I responded.
“Well, sure, but also the personal questions about what you do with your boobs while you’re sitting at the dinner table,” he countered.
“Oh. Yeah. THAT.”
It’s like there’s some switch that gets turned off as soon as people see a little one. They suddenly feel compelled to do and say things that society would otherwise deem inappropriate. Well, I’m here to say, KNOCK IT OFF.
Don’t friggin touch my baby. Don’t touch anybody’s baby without permission. Ever. Keep your hands and your comments to yourself. And have some manners and a bit of sense, will ya?
Good grief. Talking about my nipples in a restaurant and trying to give my kid The Plague … I mean, really.