Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Encounters

Having a baby is awesome for many reasons. One of them is that people are generally super-friendly and nice when they see you with a baby. Not a trip to the grocery store goes by where I'm not stopped by someone wanting to admire Linus. It's nice. It breaks down those walls and makes society a nicer place. You can share a smile and a few nice words.

How could you resist stopping to say hello?

Sometimes, though, I'm left feeling not so warm and fuzzy after these encounters. There are two types of encounters that leave me with that not-so fresh feeling.

1. People who see a baby as an excuse to offer unsolicited advice.
2. People who follow some pre-programmed script of "things to say to a baby".

The first type is to be expected. I don't mind a little bit of friendly advice. I usually smile politely and go about my way. I'm free to either ignore or apply the advice as I choose. Sometimes, however, people go to far. I was walking into the store the other day, wearing Linus in the sling when an older gentleman stopped me to admire my boy. I happily obliged. Linus is teething and so had been chewing his hand a bit, making it slightly discoloured. No big deal. The man said "Why is his hand so blue?!" I explained that he'd been chewing on it a bit. The man started feeling Linus' arms, legs and cheeks (basically the only parts of his body not covered by the sling). I'm not hugely bothered by people touching Linus most of the time, but this was a bit much! He said to me "He's too cold". I politely explained that, in the sling, snuggled up to my body he was quite warm and cosy. The man kept feeling Linus and said, "No. No. He needs more clothes." I started to feel irritated and defensive. I was about to state again that he was fine when I realized something magical. I didn't need to keep standing there, talking to this stranger. As he continued to explain my parenting shortcomings, I simply smiled and walked into the store- away from him. He trailed off and looked after me, like I'd been rude. It was very liberating! I wasn't rude to him, but I didn't stand there taking flack from someone who doesn't know me or my son.

The second type is infuriating in a different way. Almost everyone has scripts and social norms that they are programmed to enact. It's a fact of life. I'd never noticed how strong they are until I had Linus. I cannot tell you how many times people with older children say "Ohh, they're lovely when they're that age! (indicating Linus) Not like when they're older! (indicating their own kids) What a nightmare!" Which never fails to make me sad. I truly hope that I always find Linus as delightful as I do now. I would hate to think that I might ever describe him as anything close to a nightmare, especially in front of him! Do these people really mean it? Or is it just something people say. Most of the times, when these scripts are said in passing I politely smile and go about my day.

Sometimes, I feel the need to push back and challenge the norm. The other day at the Children's Centre one of the lovely women that works there was holding Linus and giving him a cuddle while I put my coat on and got sorted to leave. She's a very nice lady and was complimenting Linus' snazzy hat. The conversation went something like this.

Lovely Lady: (to Linus) Don't you look handsome? I love you're little hat!
Me: Thank you! His Daddy picked it out.
LL: Awww, how nice. (to Linus) Were you looking for a girlfriend at play group today? Is that why you look so smart?
we both laugh
LL: (stage whispers to Linus) No one will ever love you like mummy.
Me: (to Linus)That's true! I love you very much.
LL: (still to Linus) And no girl will ever take care of you are love you as much as mummy.
Me: We do hope someday he meets someone to love who makes him very happy. Just like mommy and daddy do for each other.
LL: (giving me an odd look) But she still won't be as good as mummy. Because no one loves you as much as she does. Even if daddy tells you different, don't believe him.
Me: Oh, I think Daddy feels the same way as I do.
LL: (frustrated that I'm not following along with the "No Girl Will Ever Live Up to Mommy" script) I bet mummy will give you everything you want and never deny you anything, because that's how mummy's are with their little boys.
Me: Oh, daddy's the softy at our house. I'm sure I'm going to have to be the "heavy".
LL: My little boy comes to me and our little girl goes to our daddy. That's how it is.
Me: Well, I'm sure all our kids will go do daddy. He's a pushover. (said with affection!)

The nice woman seemed so confused by my refusal to play along with her script. It was clear that she had had this conversation with other people and that ours was not going the way she wanted. I wasn't intentionally being difficult... (well maybe a little!) I realize, right now, Linus can't understand these conversations, but someday he will. I want him to know that we love him and don't think he's a nightmare. I want him to know that we hope he meets someone who loves him as much as I love Daddy (and who he loves as much as Daddy loves me). I want him to know that it's ok to have opinions and thoughts that don't follow the script.

When do you deviate from "the script"?

3 comments:

  1. what an ugly baby

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  2. UGH. I've experienced this sooooo many times with different things, and overheard it so many times in regards to babies. It's so irritating. I think a lot of people just don't know how to express independent thoughts about these things, so they resort to tropes. :P

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    Replies
    1. Tropes is the word! I was trying to remember the term, but couldn't come up with it. Thanks :)

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