Saturday 19 November 2011

Too close for comfort

I remember when Dan and I started dating (back in high school), the first time we kissed felt like a very big deal. I was convinced that the entire school was staring at us. In reality, I'm pretty sure that nobody cared but, for me, welcoming somebody in my personal space was a bit uncomfortable yet totally fascinating.

I obviously still have a personal space but I do like the physical proximity that I can have with my family, my friends and even people that I barely know. I also think that I project my thin personal space on Alice.

Now that I'm living in parenthood land, I realized that many moms (and dads) get very offended when strangers or even family members touch their babies. Of course, I would never let Alice get near somebody that has influenza written on its forehead. I'm just talking about an innocent koochi koo on the foot or a kiss on the forehead.

A few months ago, Alice and I went shopping with a friend and her baby. Alice was in her carrier smiling to all the passerby. One of them happened to be a homeless man begging for money. When he came near us to see Alice and delicately touched the tip of her head, it never occurred to me that our personal space was invaded. However, my friend told me that she would have never let that happened.

This is a bit of an extreme example but this could also apply to grand-parents or the receptionist at work or the waiter at your local brunch restaurant. Recently, I received an email from a lovely reader (sadly, I can't read her blog since it is in Dutch) who wanted my opinion on the subject. Well, I think that it all depends on the parents' values and how comfortable the baby appears to be in that situation.

For example, I love to kiss Alice on her sweet baby lips. Yes, sometimes I find myself "French kissed" and full of baby drool but I think that it is hilarious. At the opposite, Dan told me that he was uncomfortable doing that to his daughter but he didn't mind me doing it to Alice. I totally respect his decision.

And if I was uncomfortable having somebody "invading" Alice's private space, I would simply (and politely) let the person know to back off a bit. Would it be awkward? Hell yes, but you got to do what you got to do as a mother. After all, it is your kid!

Do you have any "too close for comfort" baby stories?

note: Beautiful art work from Theater Clouds (on maternity leave).

* * * * *

little gray pixel: I'm also telling myself to chill out but it is a bit challenging for me ;) Our babies will be just fine...Alexa will eventually crawl and Alice will eventually sit!

kim u: Just like you, I'm not a fan of osteopaths for no actual reasons. This is strange when you think about it!

taryn: You also have a non-sitter. Interesting! Thank you for your comment.

ali: I don't even know what is a cranial osteopath. Well, I figured it out by the name but it was a new thing for me. My friend also went (to a regular osteopath) and her daughter's head completely changed shape in one treatment. This is wild!

sid.: But it is so difficult not to stress :(

gillian: Oh, Alice LOVES to explore. Yesterday, she discovered the dog's water bowl...gross! I'm so happy to know that your girl can now turn her head easily. This is pretty cool.

daniela: Thank you! Rolling is the beginning of the end ;) Alice also seems perfectly content and relaxed about her situation.

lina: How come everybody seems to know about cranial osteopathy? Was I living under a rock?

haramaki love: Oh, you are Bess's friend, right? I must look like such an ignorant person. I didn't know about cranial osteopathy and, after your comment, occupational therapy!!! Thank you for all the information. This is super interesting.

emily: I'm VERY surprise by how active Alice is...especially when I look at other babies her age She is freaking hyper but it is awesome (and she is pretty much always happy).

anonymous: Oh cool! You are pregnant! Congratulations. And a little boy...this is so exciting. I hope that things will go as you planned. Take care :)

sara: J'ai plusieurs amis français qui trippent ostéopathes mais détestent les chiros. Je crois aussi qu'ils ne font pas exactement les mêmes choses qu'au Québec (mais bon)! Oh, j'aimerais bien avoir les coordonnées de ton ostéo. Ben oui, WTF, ils sont dans une clinique sur Décarie je crois. C'est bizarre non?

gimbo: You are right. For example, I'm really don't believe in homeopathy but when you see your baby suffer during the teething phase, you might just give it a try. I didn't try that yet but almost all my friends did with mixed results. And this is true... Alice can do just like all the other babies at swimming and yoga class, I don't think that there is a big problem with her.

bloom right here: Oh, another thing that I didn't know about: cranio-sacral therapy (thank you for the link). And yes, all those changes are part of the fun.

abby: I would also think that the less intervention the better...but grand-ma (my mother) doesn't agree with that at all!!!

sarahvine: Wow, thank you for all that information. It is so interesting to know how other kids are doing. Oh, you are doing such a great job, you should absolutely get a medal :)

sal: Thank you so much! Have a lovely week.

oscarlucinda: You should totally get the pattern. It is so much fun to make. I already made another one (I must take a picture). Yoga rocks :)


tiffany... said...

oh... i freak out, internally, every time one of the grandmas holds james! i don't know what it is... maybe it's they way they act like they know better or, are excited to put him to sleep (even when i, specifically, ask them not to because i want to give him a bath). however, when a neighbor, the mildly crazy lady at the grocery store, a friend, or, my 7 year old neice holds him... i'm totally fine! weird... right?
i, clearly, have space issues... but, weird ones.
i, too, love giving the babe kisses on his little mouth (often, he opens his mouth and i get slobbered on!) as does his papa! we let james sleep in the bed for the second half of the night and, usually, he and i are sleeping nose to nose... we both love this!
anyway... i could rattle on...
thanks for creating this post... i think about my issues with space and james's space often!

Dorian said...

Same here! I especially freak out when the grandparents want to kiss her, touch her, hug her when she is in distress. It makes me want to scream ´leave her alone´. And I hate it that I have to remind the grandma several time NOT to kiss my daughter on the mouth. I wonder is it a space issue or a grandparents issue...

gillian said...

After reading the above comments I feel SO much better! It's nice to know I'm not entirely alone with my grandparent neuroses. I get completely defensive when my husband's one grandmother picks up Mia. Actually, she doesn't even have to pick her up; her mere presence makes my teeth itch. She's constantly giving her opinion about what I'm doing wrong; how I should hold her; how to burp her; how I'm spoiling her (really? picking her up when she starts to cry after waking from her nap is spoiling her? she's 4 months old!) Plus, since she's of the oldschool Italian mind, she thinks my 2 cats are plotting somehow to kill the baby, "You have to get rid of them. That's what cats do, you know? They kill babies." Really. Who knew?

I get mildly protective when others do things that I know Mia doesn't like - or that I don't like. But for the most part, I'm pretty lax with the whole personal space thing.

Here's something - Have you ever had an issue with people whistling at Alice to get her attention? It reminds me too much of how people summon their dogs, and for some reason it makes me angry to hear anyone whistle at a baby. Weird? Probably. I actually said "she's not a dog" to my father-in-law when he whistled at Mia once. He looked like I'd just slapped him in the face. My husband was not impressed, but I refused to apologize.

As for the mouth kissing thing - I love to kiss Mia on the mouth. I too get "french kissed" from time to time, but I think it's adorable and she always giggles and gushes whenever I pull my face away all scrunched-up with a fake look of "eeeew" on it. I love the drool. It'll happen all too soon that I won't get kisses so easily and will be forced to walk 10 paces behind her at the mall when we go clothes shopping. *sigh* Until then, I'm happy to be puked on; peed on; drooled on and look like a total nerd if it makes her smile.

sara said...

I also have issues with grand mothers holding/kissing/cuddling my baby. So weird...
It 's like they make me feel they thing he is theirs or something.
Strange thing!
But I find it very irritating when my mother in law holds him and dances with him. I get über jealous.

Other than that, I am like you, super chill and relax about people touching my child. I don't think it's a problem. If anything, I find August being very social and not scarred of people (most of the time). I'd rather have a very social kid than a shy one.

Hoola Tallulah said...

About a year ago, I was in our local bakery with Boo, and an old man came over to say Hello to her, this doesn't normally bother me, old folk like babie's and toddlers, but this chap was stroking her cheek and there was just something "not right" about the whole debacle, for the first time ever as a parent, I had to ask him to please not touch my daughter. The man was really upset and offended, and Simon was so cross with me about that, but in that moment, the way he was touching my daughter and the words that accompanied his actions repulsed me, it didn't seem right or harmless, it felt wrong, and so I told him to stop. I still question whether I did the right thing, it wasn't nice to imagine I hurt his feelings or made him feel like a pervert, but I guess on reflection, I was just protecting my daughter.

Kim U said...

We just got back from vacation and I'm catching up on blogs, your question here totally applies to some of our vacation experiences. We went to Japan for our vacation - it was great fun with a toddler, we really enjoyed it! People were really fantastic and friendly and having a child along seemed to open people up to talking with us. Every once in a while though, I felt like this openness went too far. My son is blond, so he really stuck out in the areas we visited. I think he attracted a lot of attention in part because of his appearance. I was a little uncomfortable with how many times strangers took his photo.

Two occasions really stuck out to me. In one case, he was running around in an open area, having fun. This group of mostly elderly women saw him and started following him around a bit. They got... well, too close to comfort for me and were kind of aggressive in wanting to take his photo and pat him on the head. Who knew elderly ladies could set off alarms? The second occasion was photo-related. We were on the train heading to Tokyo Narita airport. My son was a little grumpy (last day of vacation!) and I was trying to get him in a carrier to make it easier at the airport. This man turned around, smiled at us, gave us the thumbs up, and then proceeded to take a bunch of photos. I can't say exactly what bothered me, but it was the one time that I almost started shouting at someone to stop taking photos.

Mostly though, the extra attention was nice and friendly and respectful. I can't count the number of conversations we had that never happened on our last trip to Japan. I think having a child along just bridged barriers to meeting other people.

FWIW, here in the US, the homeless people we run into on our morning dog walks tend to be much more interested in the dog than in the toddler.

PJ said...

As we traveled for Thanksgiving, one of the flight attendants patted Levi on the head every time she walked down the aisle of the plane. I thought that was very strange. Also strange--she kept referring to him as "she" and "her," even though Levi was dressed in an obvious "boy outfit."