It starts with a pregnant belly. Something about the protrusion leads people to think it’s OK to pat total strangers. And it doesn’t stop once the kid is externally perched. I’ve experienced several uninvited hand-to-baby contact incidents in the 20 months my daughter has been around. I find the situations fall into two categories: Just Trying to Help and Just Trying to Help Spread Germs.
Take, for instance, these two scenarios.
Scenario 1: Ellie and I are in line to board a plane at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. An older gentleman is behind us and smiling at Ellie. All of a sudden, he takes his thumb, sticks it into his mouth, closes his lips and pulls his thumb out with a pop. I could see the saliva droplets flying through the air. As if to make sure he definitely coated her in his spit, he took the same hand and pinched. Her. Cheeks. I was so horrified that I don’t think I was able to speak, but I did wipe her face off as best I could given the circumstances.
Scenario 2: Ellie and I are at the cashier’s desk at Nordstrom Rack. Ellie is perched on one hip while I dig around inside the Lululemon Athletica bag that serves as her diaper bag for my wallet. The employee notices that Ellie’s hair bow is askew (perhaps not realizing it got that way when she ran through clothing racks screaming “No!” after I wouldn’t let her try on a pair of boots that were a size too small). “Let me fix your bow,” she says and reaches out to adjust it before I could think.
In both cases, these are good Samaritans looking to be friendly toward a mom and interact with a baby. Still, the first scenario makes me want to barf and I easily file it into Just Trying to Help Spread Germs. The Rack worker, on the other – and here’s hoping cleaner – hand, was Just Trying to Help.
Some women might have taken her move as a jab at their ability to keep everything under control. Some might consider it unimaginable to touch another person’s child without asking, as in she should have said to me, “May I fix her hair bow?” And I see those points.
But here’s the big difference for me: The man, in his effort to make Ellie laugh (she didn’t), exposed her to microbe-laden bodily fluids.
Another scenario, which I witnessed, took place at the play gym. A grandmother offered to take my friend’s son off her hands because he was crying and at that moment, my friend was carrying her child and mine. Initially, we thought the grandma was trying to be helpful. Then we realized that her grandson wanted to hug my friend’s son and the grandmother was trying to wrestle the boy down to receive the hug whether he wanted it or not.
I think that calls for another category: Heck No.
What madness have you encountered when people want to reach out and touch someone – and that someone is your child? How do you handle it?