I think I’m missing a trick here. Was there some kind of ‘how to keep your baby perfectly happy and quiet all the time’ secret going around in the 60s/70s that nobody has told me about? I have an eleven-month old baby who occasionally cries – sometimes because he’s hungry, sometimes because he’s teething, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. I was under the assumption that since the beginning of time babies have done this, but recently it has come to my attention that ladies of a certain generation either know something we don’t or have forgotten that once upon a time their babies cried too.
I was in Tesco today when I saw a man fumbling around at the self-serve, trying to get out of there as quick as he could. He had a crying new-born and was probably feeling overwhelmed at being alone with him, probably not knowing what to do to stop the crying and possibly feeling a little embarrassed at all of the above. As I was waiting an older lady turned to me and said ‘look at that poor baby and his dad not paying any attention’. I couldn’t believe the cheek of her and politely pointed out that it looks as though he’s busy scanning his shopping. To which she told me ‘well you’re lucky you have a nice baby, he’s happy with his sandwich. Not that he needs it.’ (I think she just called you fat baby boy.)
I took Marley to the shop a week ago and, lo and behold, he cried. As I walked in an older lady rushed over and asked ‘Is that your baby crying? It scared the life out of me.’ She genuinely looked terrified – weird, I thought but I continued looking for bits on the shelf. I’d hung a muslin cloth over the buggy so that he would fall asleep and as I turned around the woman was standing there rocking the buggy and had taken the cloth off telling me ‘Oh I couldn’t see his face.’ She told me he was chunky and as I took the buggy off of her she told me to ‘just stick his dummy in’ (thanks lady, why didn’t I think of that!?). I then heard her saying to the cashier that it was such a shame to hear him crying.
Being the respectful, laidback person I am I didn’t bite back, it didn’t bother me at all, but it got me thinking. Why do strangers, particularly older women, act as if babies are public property? Yes, everyone has their way of doing things but as new parents we are hard enough on ourselves without strangers making us feel like we are doing everything wrong. It occurred to me that comments like this directed at a woman with a colicky baby that won’t stop crying or one suffering with post-natal depression could push them over the edge. It seems that a majority of older women have forgotten what it is to be a new parent.
There isn’t much point to this post but I just wanted to say that if you pass by a parent with a crying baby don’t try and give advice (I’m sure they have mothers, sisters, friends for that) – if you really want to help why not offer to carry their bags? Or just a sympathetic smile could go a long way. You never know what they are going through.
If you’re reading this with a screaming baby in your arms just hold on a little while longer, this too shall pass.