The point is, you can’t rush in and start doing “Ooh” “Aahh” “Isn’t he such a cutie-pie!” when you see a baby. It can be so reflexive and fake. You’re not an actor, are you? Well then, don’t do some here’s-me-with baby-look-at-me routine. Be genuine.
Otherwise – well, wouldn’t you be weirded out if someone did that to you?
You’re sitting there with your friends at a cafe and you’ve got your grown-up sippy cup [oops, sorry, is that thing that you always carry everywhere called a water bottle? Totally different, of course. That’s the bottle that means you’re sporty and just came from the gym or the tennis court or something.
Or is it a coffee-cup which means I MISSED MY NAPPY-TIME TODAY SO INSTEAD I’LL DO CAFFEINE?
I think you should walk around with both.
Left hand: Look out world, I am so athletic and so-health-conscious-that-I’m-aware-of-the-latest-dumb-theory-that-every-human-being-needs-to-be-ultra-hydrated-all-the-time! Let’s meet at the gym!
Right hand: Look out world, I’m so busy with saving the world that I have no time for regular sleep! Let’s meet never (I’m too busy for you, loser).
Take-Home Message: I’m so strong and athletic and busy and capable but I need my hydration and my caffeine (my sippy cups) so badly that my hands are effectively useless for anything but carting these (and my phone) around.
Indeed, watch out for the caffeinated drinkers. Worse than druggies, they need their ‘fix’ or else! High-maintenance for nothing. What’ll it be? Two sugars and one cream or is that one sugar and two creams or is it black or is it beige or something in between? Is it up or is it down don’t want to screw up or soon you will frown. Is it too strong or too weak or what do I care? Wait – yeah, what do I care? This drink is your problem, and never was mine. This is your sordid affair with some bitter old beverage, some imported brown bean. Make it yourself; it’s your addiction of choice. I’m going for a smoke. Unless I’m not.]
So you’re hanging out minding your own business at this cafe. The last thing you want is to be suddenly crowded with a bunch of noisy people who have started cooing. Imagine the scene. All of a sudden, four strangers who are all about twenty years older than you gather around and start talking non-sensically, making weird noises and sounds at you. You’d be saying, “Hey, get me out of this car seat! Where did all these old people come from? They’re extremely unbalanced, not to mention insincere.”
No, it’s got to be done with reverence and respect for the baby.
Consider it a privilege to lay your eyes upon the little one.
Talk sensibly. Talk to the baby the way people talk to you. Use actual words, and actual sentences.
Get permission from the mother to stare at this child.
And about the mother, be kind.
Little do you know what she’s been through that day. Little do you know what battles she’s fought. To be out in public, all in one piece, can be quite a feat.
Be kind. Be considerate.
Speak to her the way one would speak to the veteran of a war, all decorated with medals, medallions and badges. This baby is her victory, her very own prize.
You don’t know what she’s been through. You weren’t there in the room. You didn’t see the valour, the struggle, the road walked alone. The labour was hers. The nine months were hers. You didn’t do it, not for this one.
This baby is her victory, her very own prize.
Respect for the mother, respect for the baby!
Don’t figure you get it, don’t figure you know it, don’t think it’s a matter of ultrasound and model and all kinds of talk. Especially if you’re a man. Especially if you’re a woman who has never done it.
And even at that, one mother is never the same as another.
One birth is never quite like
Even twins are uneven, unequal, non-identical always. A new soul, a new body, one first and one second. A mystery here: God does not repeat. Not quite. No, it’s not quite the same. Look closer, you’ll see: this dimple, this smile, this wink of the eye. Not quite the same. Can you tell?
Then, if you can remember that, feel free to ask the questions. Feel free to speak. How was your day? How has baby’s day been so far?
Listen carefully to the answer.
Don’t speak, moron.
Don’t give her your input, your advice and your story. Don’t tell her about your day and your glory and about the time you delivered in no time and boy was it gory. No, no, no. This isn’t your moment. It’s hers.
But do tell, please do, those good things she yearns for, if you can speak true.
(Insincere praise is called flattery, and the penalty for that isn’t steep enough, whatever it is.)
What can you say that is honest and kind? Sometimes mothers feel overweight, all bloated and tired. But the reality is that their body is often at the top of its game: performing incredible mysteries, riddles and rhymes. Blood into milk. Hips angled like this. Hair strong and flowing. Skin flushed and glowing. Eyes sparkling a warning: “This baby is mine.”
But, since you are pro-baby, pro-mother and pro-pregnant lady, you will not let this opportunity pass you on by. Your best efforts at noticing, kindness and love is what I suggest.
Into this space of mother with child, enter with care and all dignity.
Tell her, with kindness, that you do find her baby looks sweet (if to your eyes, this is true). Tell her, with kindness, that her baby looks alert (if, to your eyes, it does). Tell her, with kindness, that she, the mother looks strong (if, in your opinion, she does). Variations on a theme allowed, if you think they’re true and provided you say these things with pureness of intention.
[If you’re a woman you can go one step further. You can comment on her appearance, telling her those things that will soothe, that will cheer, that will uplift, provided that – provided that – you really believe them. You can tell her, with kindness, that she looks lovely and pretty today, that’s she’s found a nice top, that her hair looks glossy and thick. Variations on a theme allowed if you think they’re true.]
Tell her, with kindness, that you consider her blessed to have such a child (if you can speak this sincerely). Tell her, with kindness, that you wish her well (if you really do.) Tell her, with kindness, that you also would like to have, one day, a child of your own, or another one (if you do.) Tell her, with regret, that you cannot just yet, but that you hope,
that you hope
you could be
holding a car seat
exactly like she does
in that waiting room.
That much you can say,
If it’s true.