Thursday, September 17, 2009

Babies and Strangers

When out and about now, I often carry Ira facing out (in a ring sling). I never really did that with Leigh. She was quite easily overstimulated, and really seemed to need the protection of being able to tuck her head up against us, so I almost always carried her tummy-to-tummy. In contrast, Ira is quite happy facing out or in, and since we're trying to gently push him into something like a nap schedule, carrying him facing out can be a good way to keep him happily awake when needed.

Over the last week or so, I've noticed that this means many more people talk to me about the baby, or make googley eyes at him, or smile in that way that only a baby can make you smile. At 3 1/2 months he often will give them a good smile back. At a coffeeshop I go to sometimes, dads in particular have started several conversations. One guy opened up about his 8-year-old who lives in another state. Another dad and I compared notes about pacifiers. Sometimes someone will even touch the baby (gasp!). Sometimes people give me advice I don't really want (often about how hot/cold he is or whether or not he's really OK in that carrier).

Over the years I've been privy several conversations among parents bemoaning the slew of unsolicited advice that comes your way once you're out and about with a baby, or the horrors of old ladies coming up and pinching your baby's cheeks, or annoyance at the rubberneckers always trying to get a peek in the stroller. While I sort of understand the annoyance, I actually love (most*) such interactions. I see them as the last shred of our instinct to communally care for our young. When strangers interact with Ira, I see a piece of what it means to be human. I feel a little less like I'm on a tiny island containing only my small family, and more like our baby is part of the whole world.

* I do have my limits, however. The random drunk guy yelling at me that my 6 week old was hungry as he cried while I tried to get set up to nurse in a crowded subway station really ticked me off.


GIsen said...

I'm with you Lyn in that I stroll through my days looking for snipits that community exist even amongst the faces of strangers. That we humans are still filled with just a smidgen of concern for one another, little ones the most.

nutella said...

I admit, I am a shameless baby stroller rubbernecker and I love when people do it with us.

Something I don't love? The random stranger sitting in the seat behind me on the airplane who grabbed Miles feet from behind where they restd on the armrest as I was nursing him.

Anonymous said...

i have to confess that i, too, am a stroller rubbernecker, although i've never called myself that before. i will talk to any baby, make faces, play peek-a-boo, etc. but i don't touch them if i don't know them, and it weird me out when people touch nate. a waitress in a restaurant recently kissed him, which i found quite forward.

oneofhismoms said...

That is such a nice way to think about it. It annoys me so much when people tell me he's cold because it feels like a judgement of me as a parent. And I know when he's cold, thank you very much. But you are right. They're just trying to be a village.

blue milk said...

I love the way you put that - the last shred. Terrific observation.

timaree said...

I love this post. I too feel like the rubbernecking, this desire to see the newest additions to the planet is really a lovely human trait. I found myself in tears at Whole Foods when the guy at the cheese counter was so enamored of my baby boy. I have yet to have anyone try to touch my son, but I do think this will bother me. Still, it's nice to know that there is still some compassion out there, still some desire to take care of our youngest and most fragile. Great, great post.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I also admit to rubbernecking, flirting and blatant staring when it comes to babies and toddlers. I simply cannot keep my eyes off them. It creeps me out frankly when I see people show hostility or indifference toward a fresh new life.

In my defense though I also keep my eyes on little ones when I think their parents aren't, just to be sure someone is aware of their safety. Parents can't be all places at all times and it is so important that we hold onto that village child care that you talked about.

Lovely post Lyn and I'm glad you and the boy are enjoying some time out and about.