I was standing in line at a restaurant today waiting to pick up some lunch when an older man came in and stood next to me. He smiled, then he reached out and stroked Tallulah’s arm. Then he rubbed her head. Then he touched her face.
I know he was probably just being affectionate, but … well, I had to fight the urge to run away. Had he not backed away when he did, I’m pretty sure I would have.
I don’t know what I was so worried he might do … contaminate her? Snatch her? Scratch her?
He said babies were his favorite kind of people – they don’t hold grudges. I politely agreed. I like them, too, although I’m pretty sure Tallulah is capable of staying mad about something longer than anyone I know.
I hate that I feel suspicious of people, that I (most of us … ?) can’t stand having a complete stranger violate my personal space and put a fissure in my sense of security, but isn’t that just a sign of the times?
It wasn’t the first time something like this happened. A few weeks ago, an older lady offered to hold Tallulah in the grocery store while I ran to get the milk I had forgotten. It was a nice offer, and I’m sure she meant it in the purest way possible. But it was altogether misguided, right?
This kind of thing makes me wonder.
I can imagine that when I’m old, my children are grown (and maybe my grandchildren, too, if I’m lucky enough to see any of those), I’ll gaze fondly at moms with young children. I’ll have precious memories of these days and I’ll feel a special bond with those who are going through it, even all those years later. I might be tempted to reach out to them. I hope I’ll remember, though, how such well-intentioned overtures triggered a rise in my blood pressure.
Is it that they can’t empathize? Were the days when these people had little ones so much different than the ones we live in that they wouldn’t have felt threatened if someone had touched their babies?
If that’s the case, I wish I had been a parent back then.
But since I wasn’t, I’m just going to have to insist – look, but please don’t touch.