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 don’t 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, we’ve 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 wasn’t surprised. But when people started coming up from all angles and touching my baby’s TOES, I almost peed myself.
I’m completely serious. I was shocked to learn that this is a thing people do. BECAUSE WHY?
I’ve thought about this a lot because 1. I don’t have a ton going on, and 2. I just can’t 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 don’t 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 (I’m 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 don’t 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 baby’s little toes, and your baby is all, “what the hell?” and you’re 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 they’re there and see they’re 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 didn’t 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 stranger’s 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 you’re never going to go touch the burger of the guy in the booth next to you at a restaurant unless you’re psychotic.
It’s 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 haven’t 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 baby’s parents because you never really offered to let them see your resume in the first place.
It’s weird to carry around a baby-touching resume, too, though, so I hope that’s not what you’re 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 it’s totally cool with some parents. But most of the time, it’s 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.