I recently visited my daughter and we had a great time eating Vietnamese food and shopping with her beautiful eight month old son in tow. I realized on these outings that people are prone to making some fairly inappropriate comments to babies they have never met and/or the adults who are with them. Since I am 65, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that frequently these well meaning (I’m trying so hard to give them the benefit of the doubt here), strangers are often my contemporaries. They are, in fact, Baby Boomers and beyond. After all, it’s a classic combination: babies and grandparents. But really, these encounters were a revelation to me. Because two of the things I most like in the world are venting about inappropriate behavior and offering free advice, I have taken it upon myself to compile a handy list for my contemporaries. It is short enough to print, fold, and tuck into a wallet next to the reader’s AARP card for easy access. Without further ado, herewith~
THE TOP FIVE THINGS A STRANGER SHOULD NOT SAY TO THE MOTHER OF AN EIGHT MONTH OLD BOY WHEN MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A PUBLIC PLACE
- Day Brightener #1~Elderly lady, clearly bitter, to baby’s mother: “Aaaahhhh…a beautiful baby! But enjoy him now; he will grow up, get married, and he’ll never pay attention to you again. He will only want to be with his wife!” You have now not only fulfilled the mother’s worst neurotic fear, you have also managed to ruin what was previously a pleasant outing at Ikea.
- Day Brightener #2 (variation on #1)~Elderly, kindly looking gentleman: “Your boy is very cute, but I really like girls better. A boy will grow up and won’t pay any attention to you. A girl will take care of you when you get sick.” And once again, the baby’s mother is sent into a blue funk, picturing unreturned calls when her son grows up, marries, and moves out of her life….forever!
- Creepy elderly man (see above), not satisfied with lobbing only one depressing comment, has circled the thrift shop to swoop in for another too familiar encounter with the baby. This time, in a move that is clearly inappropriate and ill advised, he offers the baby not one, but two pieces of wrapped hard candy. While he seems to understand that my grandson can’t actually eat the treats yet (lack of teeth and the fact that the candy is, you know, from a stranger tend to put the kibosh on such a gift), he nonetheless gives it to him. Then, in what quite possibly surpasses the previous creepiness, he hands the baby’s mom another piece of candy, “For Grandma!” (Yes, that would be me; I start scanning the store for the nearest exit).
- Grandmotherly type, looking at what is clearly a small birthmark: “Oooh!!! What happened?! Did you get a boo boo, pretty girl?!” No, no he did not….
- We have finally made it to the check out line; perhaps we can exit without any further baby comments and/or advice. Nope.This time, a 65 year old woman is the culprit. I know she is 65 because she has asked me to guess her age. This, after muscling her way into the long line and ending up directly behind us. Before I can guess, she has announced her age and modestly asked, “Don’t I look good?! I take care of myself, and inherited good genes.” Thank you so much for sharing. When we had seen her elsewhere in the store earlier, she announced that the baby, in a Bjorn, was lucky to be toted around by someone. “I wish someone would carry me around!” That, dear lady, would indeed be a sight to see. This time, as the line crawls forward, she announces that she wants to carry “that sweet baby” everywhere. It is at this point that my daughter makes a hasty retreat, muttering a few choice words under her breath. I stare straight ahead, make my $5.75 purchase, and join the family outside the store, clutching the baby and tossing the candy as we head for the car. There you have it; just a few choice examples for people of any age (but mostly my generation) of what not to say, should they encounter a baby in the course of their daily errands. You don’t have to thank me; but I will have to insist that from now on you stay the heck away from my grandson.