Sunday, June 14, 2009

Babies of the World, Unite !

Are babies communal property? When my wife was pregnant total strangers felt they were able to approach her and touch her bump. They were mostly female and often younger than her, but not always. She almost punched one man who meant no harm but just could not restrain himself from feeling the bump.

After the birth the simple act of carrying the baby often draws a crowd of cooing strangers. We took our wee boy to a party just a few days into his short life, and I swear it was half an hour before anyone noticed there was a adult, me, carrying the child. Zoom! Cue the high-pitched voices and longing sighs! Action! The waggling finger comes out and waves at the face or tummy of the baby. Minutes later: "Oh, hi David. How have you been?" ("Sleep deprived" is my usual answer.)

Carrying a baby seems to be a free invitation for people to accost you no matter what you are doing. They often offer sweet lil' comments that are somehow scary... "He's a yummy as an ice cream cone. I could just eat him up."

They may tell you about their own children, or desire for them ... "I want my own child more than I want this ice cream."

They may offer advice ... "When mine was that age we use to dip his head in chocolate so he looked like an ice cream."

They may even criticize your child-rearing ... "That's a very uneven coating of chocolate on that boy's head, and you should have sprinkled chopped nuts for a better effect."

Yet for the most part the communal aspect of a baby seems like a positive thing. The fact the so many people overcome their usual social inhibitions in order to interact with a baby seems to say something wonderful about the human condition. In a small way the entire community wants to help with the raising of our child.

Soon, however, he'll grow up and cross the mystical line from cute baby to annoying toddler, at which point he'll be able to smear his own head with chocolate, and the strangers will keep their distance, keep their advice and criticisms to themselves, and keep their eyes on his sticky hands. That's my boy.

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