It’s so interesting what different people are used to with strangers, big gatherings, and shopping malls. I used to think it was more nurture than nature, that your upbringing and family culture dictated how you behaved and reacted in these situations. Watching my daughter from infancy to toddlerhood has changed my viewpoint a bit. Even at 2 months old she was scared of strangers, and would scream bloody murder. Her stranger anxiety was really bad from 4 months old to about 14 months, crying when other people made eye contact or touched her, and clinging to me like cling wrap does to itself. Even my husband’s family members, who she saw on a regular basis, were likely to make her cry. Whenever we’d meet up with another mommy and baby, I would be envying the other mommy whose baby was calm and curious, not anxious and screaming.
Now that she’s passed 2 years and 8 months, she has definitely improved in terms of her reaction to strangers or people she doesn’t see often enough to really know. But I am just as frustrated today as I was when she was a tiny baby when people cannot be respectful of boundaries.
I understand that babies and small children are cute, and therefore very attractive to the average adult. I believe they were made that way so that their parents wouldn’t throw them out of windows when they’re inconsolable. However, being super cute does not mean that a baby or young child wants their personal space invaded. It amazes me how they are not really considered “people”, more like pets, or commodities to be petted and squeezed.
My daughter was born with a lot of hair, and we have only gotten it cut once since she was born (traumatic undertaking so I haven’t been brave enough to go at it again). So she has really long hair. Which looks pretty adorable with her hairclips or ponytails or whatever. Add to that the toddler girl cuteness factor and you have something many people cannot resist touching.
She was holding my hand at IKEA (I know, I know, we go there a lot) and we were getting ready to walk down the stairs. A lady came from behind to pass us, and as she passed, she put her hand on my daughter’s head and ran her fingers through her hair. No words were exchanged, no eye contact was made. My daughter immediately flinched and grabbed my leg. Thankfully no tears that time. But I just wonder why that woman thought that would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
My daughter’s hair is not an item at IKEA that you can finger at your leisure to see if you like it.
She is a living, breathing human being with feelings and boundaries, just like every other person. Yes, she is a tiny cute person. But a person nonetheless! I certainly would not go up to someone I barely knew and caress their cheek with my hand or stroke their hair. I wouldn’t get right into their face and start cooing at them and breathing into their nose and mouth. I’m pretty sure most adults wouldn’t do that to most other adults. So why is it okay to do it to kids?
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So why does it seem that everywhere we go, people can’t keep their hands to themselves??