Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Please Don't Squeeze The Baby

I recently got into a big debate at Free Range Kids about this sign:

If you can't read it, it says, "Your Germs Are Too Big For Me, Please Don't Touch," and then there's a dog's foot print (which makes no sense at all, unless dogs can read and frequently go around touching babies...).

I think the sign is idiotic, personally.  I would rather have one that says, "33% of Men and 12% of Women Don't Wash Their Hands After They Pee, Since I Don't Know Which Group You Are In, Don't Touch Me," maybe with a random icon of a toilet paper dispenser at the bottom.  (I get bonus points because mine rhymes).

Or how about "91% Of People Pick Their Noses - Please Keep Your Filthy Boogies Off Of Me!"  Icon: 

Or even "30% of the Population is Infected with Staph, Back the $&#* Up!"

Ok, admittedly, I never needed a sign, because I have never had a problem standing up for myself or my kids.  True story - we were at iHop (that's how it should be capitalized) when MG was about 6 months old, and the waitress moved in to cop a feel, and I said, "Careful!  She bites!"  She gave me a horrified look and backed off.

I have people skills.

I think this is a cultural issue.  While I have no problem whatsoever talking to strangers (I live in Indiana, some of my best friends are strangers), I do not want to touch strangers.  I do not want to be touched by strangers, either.  It could be because I'm white.  It could be because I'm upper-middle-class.  It could be because of my Scot-Irish heritage.  There are probably a lot of factors that influence the size of my "personal space bubble."

I know that there are plenty of people who think that babies (and often even bellies that contain babies) are public property.  I am not one, and if someone comes up and grabs my baby's finger (which she then promptly sticks in her mouth - it's the baby equivalent of dogs smelling each others' butts - maybe that's why the sign has a paw print?), or rubs my pregnant belly I get deeply offended.

I got felt up twice when I was pregnant.  It was enough to make me swear that the next person who touched my belly was going to get grabbed by the privates.  That was the only action I could think of that would feel as awkward for them as having my belly rubbed made me feel. 

Now since most of you who read this are my friends and family, let me take this opportunity to point out that I don't think YOU are a filthy harbinger of disease.  YOU are welcome to touch my kids or pat my belly.  Of course you are.  If you know our names, you can touch the baby.  If you've had a meal at my house, you don't even need to ask before you pick up my kids.  In fact, you may have to tackle me as I sprint for the door if you even look mildly interested in babysitting (Mommy really needs a haircut).

At BlogHer last year I missed my kids so bad it hurt, and there were several other moms who had their babies with them.  I will admit that I copped a couple of smells.  Yes, I went up and said, "Can I smell your baby?  I miss mine so much."  And they smelled so delicious that they brought tears to my eyes, but unless I was asked to hold the baby, I did not touch.

In reading the Wikipedia article about personal space, I had a bit of an "aha!" moment.  I have noticed before that when my children are babies, under 1 year old for the sake of argument, they feel like an extension of my body.  When they get shots, I tense up.  When they cry, I get anxious.  It's like having a little limb running around independent from the rest of me.  I've noticed that this fades as they get older, but so far it hasn't gone completely away, with my oldest child at 4.5 years old.

So when someone cootchie-coos my baby, I feel like they've inserted themself into my personal/intimate space.  And if I don't have the sort of relationship with them where I'd be comfortable with them in my personal/intimate space, I don't want them in my kids' personal/intimate space, either.

It's not really even about disease, for me, in spite of my joking up above.  It's about the fact that babies are people, not objects, and they have the right to move around in public without being groped.  And I have the right to be in public with them without feeling like I'm being violated.

Am I nuts?  Did (or do) you like it when strangers touch your kids, or do you think it's icky?  Oh look, a handy poll:


Kathryn said...

It was for just that reason I avoided "sinister citizens day" (as Kelly refered to it at 2 years old) at WiseWay.

Cate said...

Yes, I think you're right about a couple things -- definitely about the cultural thing, and I have always kind of felt the same about my kids being an extension of my body. Especially while breastfeeding.

In Indiana or while traveling, I really don't want anyone to touch my girls. But in Hooper Bay, or in Alaska in general, I don't mind as much. And everyone is very touchy and kissy with them. Maybe it's because they are related to half the place.

shirley said...

Love the way you put it! Not sure what I clicked on to get to your blog, but it gave me a chuckle today. I think some people think I am either paranoid or snotty, but don't care. I also don't have the urge to touch other peoples children or stomaches. A couple I do not know very well at church just had a baby and other ladies think it is strange that I do not want to hold the baby. Maybe, but I do not like my child being passed through church (germ party central) so I follow those rule for myself as well.

shirley said...
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