From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com.
Earlier this week a barista at the mall insisted on trying to guess my daughter’s age.
“Three months, right?”
I forced a smile, “She’ll be seven months next week.”
“Oh, wow, she’s a small one, isn’t she?”
“Um, no actually. She’s in the 90% percentile for height.”
Did this person think that was some sort of compliment? Or that I enjoy having strangers tell me that my daughter looks somehow stunted for her age? Probably not. He was just being nice, showing interest in my baby, but he didn’t stop to think about the implications. I doubt he would have thought it was such a good idea to guess my age. And what if she was small for her age? Does he think that would be something a parent would want pointed out?
And while I’m on the subject . . .
Baby screams when I put a hat on her. This winter I, of course, made her wear one on cold days. But when the weather is passably warm, well I choose my battles. On a recent cool day, I gave in to the disapproving stares and forced one on her, but after a few minutes of screaming I took it off. Her hair was slick with sweat. So no, she doesn’t need a hat.
No, you may not touch my baby. I know she’s crazy cute, but quite frankly I don’t know where your hands have been, stranger on the street. And I do mean even just a quick little squeeze of her hand. Most people are pretty good about resisting the urge. Few people are as clueless as the woman in the Encinitas Starbucks who stuck her fingers IN MY DAUGHTER’S MOUTH on a recent family vacation.
Squeezing a socked foot is, for me, acceptable, but you should always ask first. I know, I know, I’m hogging all the baby snuggles, but humor me. I don’t consider myself to be a germophobe*. I don’t always wash the binky that fell on the floor and I think that exposure to a reasonable amount of germs is good for the immune system. But let me make that choice.
“That baby needs more hair.” Yeah, I’ll get right on that.
This brings me to a truth I have discovered, dating back to when I became noticeably pregnant. The only thing you should ever say to a pregnant woman or parent is “You/your child are/is beautiful.” That’s it, ever, trust me. You might be surprised to discover how many women I know who were asked if they were having twins when they weren’t or if they were due “any day now” when their estimated due dates were months away.
It’s sounds like such a cliché; no one could possibly be that insensitive, but oh, they are. Most people wouldn’t make such an obvious faux pas, but think before you speak. You just don’t know what someone is going through or where he or she is coming from. The expectant mom you just told she “hardly even looks pregnant” might have just found out that her baby is measuring a few weeks behind and she’s freaking out. I could go on, but you get the picture.
And if you just feel like you can’t in all honesty say “that’s a beautiful baby” and you still feel the overwhelming urge to make some sort of comment (which, I promise, you don’t really need to do), take the advice of my family friend. Say, “My goodness, what a baby!”
Most people say and do the appropriate things, but not all. Fight the urge to give parenting advice or critique appearance. Don’t tell a pregnant woman ordering a latte that she shouldn’t have caffeine. (BTW, according to the March of Dimes, 200 mg a day is fine and that single shot latte has 75 mg, that can of diet coke 38 mg.)
Like my favorite blogger, Queen of the Couch, has said, if you see a pregnant woman doing lines of coke off the bar, please intervene. Otherwise stick with “You look beautiful.” Everyone’s happy, and no one gets punched in the face.
* I know this isn’t the technical term, but it sounds better than mysophobe.