We're sharing a post from Brigitta Burguess every day this week, as a series about her perspective as a younger, new new mom. Read them all here.
One of the things people dont really give you enough warning about when you become a parent is the outrageous tendency strangers have to do weird stuff to your baby.
I mean, weve all seen old ladies hovering over car seats with huge, ridiculous grins on their faces. That I saw coming. And when people would say things like, He has some serious pipes when passing me in the aisle at the grocery store, I wasnt surprised. But when people started coming up from all angles and touching my babys TOES, I almost peed myself.
Im completely serious. I was shocked to learn that this is a thing people do. BECAUSE WHY?
Ive thought about this a lot because 1. I dont have a ton going on, and 2. I just cant get over how insane it is. Obviously we let people we know hold and play with our son. And we have certainly had our fair share of people we dont know quite as well ask if they can carry, tickle, or hold hands with my son, but those are usually people we have at least seen or spoken to before (Im thinking in places like churches or extended family gatherings). As the people get less familiar, though, the possibility of touching disintegrates, so you get a lot of store clerks or people nearby in cafes just leaning over babies and making faces at them. I would say this happens mostly because they want to interact with the babies without being creepy (though sometimes they sort of still are). So there you have the baby contact spectrum, and there it should remain, right? No, because toes.
I think when people believe themselves to be friendly, joyful, or exciting (things that I feel like most people see in themselves), they think they can maybe sneak out of the leaning-over-the-stroller phase and into the holding-hands phase. But because they are sneaking their way there, they dont go right to the hands, but instead choose to reach out and touch those things which are more in sneaking range: the feet. So there they go, just rubbing your babys little toes, and your baby is all, what the hell? and youre all, you said it!
This is so weird for several reasons. First, I think of the relationship between my baby and his toes as identical to the relationship between me and my toes. We both kind of know theyre there and see theyre significance, but keep them sort of out of the way inside of shoes or socks most of the time. So then I think if I would be cool with someone I didnt know coming up to me and fondling my feet, and the answer is a BIG FAT NO.
Second, the action of touching a stranger at all is something akin to touching a strangers food. Like, when you make yourself some food, you can touch it all the while with your fingers and feel confident about doing so because you trust your own hands to be clean. But youre never going to go touch the burger of the guy in the booth next to you at a restaurant unless youre psychotic.
Its as if strangers who come up to my baby feel they have interacted with enough babies in their life that they are now fully equipped to hang out with literally any baby. But the thing is, other people have no idea where your hands have been (or havent been, in the case of under a faucet). So if you came up to them and just rubbed your hands all over their hamburger they would almost certainly be traumatized. In other words, even if your baby-touching resume is perfectly shining, that same trauma is experienced by the babys parents because you never really offered to let them see your resume in the first place.
Its weird to carry around a baby-touching resume, too, though, so I hope thats not what youre taking from this.
Anyway, I think strangers touch the toes of our little ones because they feel it is sort of a subtle way to get away with touching a baby without having to ask those in charge, AKA the parents. And maybe its totally cool with some parents. But most of the time, its the weirdest thing you could do so maybe just use that old will power to hold back that hand of yours and bend it into a wave instead. Cool? Cool.