Sherri Richards, Published October 27 2009
Parenting Perspectives: Baby is a target for uncouth commentsI was grabbing a carton of milk from the cooler at Cash Wise earlier this month when the gray-haired woman stormed over to me.
“Your baby has conjunctivitis!” she yelled, referring to little Eve, belted in the grocery cart. “And it is very catching!”
I quickly cut off the tirade. My daughter’s eyes were red because she’d had eye surgery the day before, I calmly explained.
“Oh,” the woman said sympathetically, patting my arm. I restrained myself from slapping it away.
“Well, I hope she doesn’t get conjunctivitis. That’s nasty stuff,” she said, turning back to her cart.
I seethed for the rest of the day over the dairy aisle incident. I wouldn’t have minded if she had asked me tactfully if my daughter was OK, or politely pointed out her eyes were red.
But somehow, having a baby makes you the most approachable person in the world, and a target for inappropriate comments.
Months earlier, in the produce section, an elderly woman admiring Eve suddenly started to tell me about a pregnant woman at her church. The mother was white. The father was black. And this woman just didn’t know what that baby would look like.
I stared at her, mouth agape, wondering how she missed the civil rights movement.
Normally, I appreciate the interest passers-by take in my daughter. It’s a bit of an ego boost to hear them remark how cute and well-behaved she is. But occasionally these interactions pass into a bizarre realm.
Like the unknown woman in the MeritCare waiting room who just had cataract surgery. Despite her impaired vision, she boldly held out her hands to take 6-month-old Eve from me. She was so persistent I acquiesced, holding my breath until Eve was back in my arms.
When Eve was nearly 4 months old, a complete stranger, noticing my daughter’s strong resemblance to her father, remarked that my husband couldn’t question that Eve belonged to him.
I was livid at the suggestion she could belong to someone else. I’m sure his comment was well-intentioned, but that wasn’t how it came across. It’s generally best not to cast doubt on a new mother’s fidelity.
Most strangers simply smile at Eve, and try to coax a smile from her. Others are more demanding, insisting on a “hi” or a wave.
I prompt her, but know she won’t respond until the person is out of earshot.
Babies speak when they want. And in their presence, adults apparently say whatever is on their mind.
Sherri Richards is mother of a 19-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com