“If someone is nice to your child, you can forgive a lot,” my mother said. Seven months into motherhood, I consider that the ultimate truism.
If Lila and I meet you, this mother’s Jewish eyes may be smiling, but they’ll also be watching you like a hawk. Have you acknowledged Lila, and if so, are you treating her nicely? Those who bend over backward for Lila win my admiration, while those who ill-treat her may earn glares.
During our apartment search in July, the people who showed us around doted on Lila. That was a smart sales move on their part. However, at the fanciest building we visited, our guide ignored Lila. It could be that he was not bewitched by Lila’s big eyes and enchanting smile, or perhaps he doesn’t consider cooing part of his job. Still, this mother noticed, and that became the first of several demerits for his building. We passed on that address.
By contrast, we ended our whirlwind weekend in one of Washington’s tony shopping districts. While we sipped smoothies at the mall, a woman spotted Lila in her stroller and screamed as if she had just seen Justin Bieber. Lila, who already understood enough to know that “cute,” “beautiful,” and “gorgeous” were good words, listened nonchalantly to the woman’s effusive attention. This Mama Bear took note, though. I had never met that woman before, and I still don’t know her, but I already like her.
When we went furniture shopping in September, my opinions about furniture were similarly colored by reactions to my girl. Lila patiently endured visits to 11 specialty and department stores. At one shop, the saleswoman complained I was restricting too many design options because of Lila. Yes, it’s true that Lila won’t always be a baby, but we also have many years of small stature and paint handprints ahead of us.
And sometimes a girl gets hungry. The saleswoman blanched when I borrowed a chair in the back of her empty store for feeding time. She urged us to relocate to the ladies’ room. I declined, noting that the only seat there was the toilet. Now, the display chair may not have been the ideal place to feed Lila – even while covered up – but if the store had a more family friendly bathroom or feeding space, it wouldn’t have been an issue. By contrast, Bed, Bath, and Beyond had no dedicated nursing space, but they willingly lent us their management office while we shopped. Needless to say, the blancher earned no commission from me.
At Baker, the sales staff was completely accepting of my feeding Lila on an out-of-the-way couch and even provided bottled water. Some customers didn’t share their generous mentality; they gawked, horrified, as they walked past us.
The most memorable part of that visit, though, was how accommodating the staff was about our needing to change Lila. A salesman offered us his counter space. When I explained the surface was too high, he directed us to their bathroom downstairs, suggesting we use the table there as a changing space. Now, I wouldn’t buy that already-reduced $5,000 table, but I appreciated its existence and the salesman’s helpfulness. If our furniture budget grows by the time we buy a house, our home will feature Baker’s polished pieces, because it was a joy dealing with their obliging staff. As someone who prizes, and is willing to pay for, excellent customer service, I was all-around wowed.
Lila will always be my beauty, but in the short-run, she can also be unpredictable. Strangers and salespeople who understand that and are willing to work with me gain a loyal friend or customer, and if they happen to kvell over Lila, I don’t mind. Those who are rigid – or rude to my darling girl – however, incur no such good will and are likely to lose this customer forever. Such is the Code of the Mama Bear: Be nice to my cub, or know that I have words that can bite and dollars that will travel.