So, people like to touch babies, eh? Recently, a male acquaintance deemed it appropriate to reach in to the pram and stroke my daughter’s cheek. I say acquaintance because this is a person I know, but who I don’t particularly like or feel comfortable around. I jiggled the pram a bit and made some excuses about having some urgent errand to run. When I got home, I got onto babycentre.co.uk community to ask other mums how they deal with this and what diplomatic ways people have found to ask people: “Don’t touch my baby you weirdo!”
Well, I was pretty gobsmacked that there was such a huge reponse to my original post, and it generated a lot of heated debate. It seems there is a split between those of us who think “great, no problem, [the old folk / random strangers] love it – it makes their day” and those of us who think “No way! Totes inappropriate!” There was a lot of talk about paedophiles and associated paranoia, but for me, it wasn’t really about that. It was more the consideration that my child, if they had been an adult would not have been touched like that, because it is not a social norm to touch other peoples faces (unless you’re all lovey kissy friends and that). No, if somebody – lets say this particular individual – came and touched my cheek lightly or squeezed my leg, I would deem it to be very pervy indeed. And unwanted. And I would have verbalised to that effect. But my daughter can’t talk yet, so shouldn’t I be the one to speak on her behalf? Yet it seems we are all terribly British about it and feel very awkward about telling strangers not to do it.
Since then, I have had another revelation. A friend has recently introduced me to two new girlfriends (one after the other, all legitimate etc. etc.!) It was only after I had met the second one, that I realised how powerful my own instincts had been with the first, with whom I had strongly felt an urge to prevent this woman holding my daughter. There was nothing wrong with the woman, I didn’t think she had dubious intent – it just didn’t feel right, so I didn’t let it happen. When I met the second woman, I was instantly comfortable and happy for her to play with my daughter. I guess this illustrates that it’s not a black and white issue. It also gave me some confidence that as a fledgling mother, I have and act upon strong instincts, which is something that it has taken me a long time to fully recognise within myself.
I still haven’t come up with the magic diplomatic phrase to stop it from happening when it’s not wanted, but I hope I will. I hope that by doing so, I will instill some sense to my daughter that it’s okay to be physical when it feels right, but it’s also okay to say no when it doesn’t, and that for me will be a great outcome. I want her to know that her body belongs to her, and that it’s not okay for her to be paraded or to be touched in order to satisfy the whim of another person.