Step Away From My Baby and Put Down That Banana

by Chris Forrest

Something that has always struck me as strange about the whole having-a-baby thing is how you lose your right to dignity and personal space. Suddenly it seems that the mom, baby and, in some cases, the dad become public property, with zero right to personal space, privacy or their own opinion on how the child should be raised.

We’ve all been there during the latter stages of pregnancy, when the mom-to-be is showing beyond a shadow of a doubt, and an absolute stranger will feel nothing of it to come up and congratulate her and then, for some bizarre reason, feel the need to place their hand on her stomach. I’ve never quite understood what they hope to achieve here. Perhaps they suspect that the mom-to-be is faking it, and want to make sure that there really is a baby in there. Or maybe they’re hoping to transfer some of that baby goodness to themselves – which is quite mean to the foetus, I feel. One person said that they were hoping to feel a kick. I offered to give them what they wanted, but apparently it’s only socially acceptable when your unborn child obliges.

Personally, I feel that fair is fair – if you get to feel my partner’s stomach, I should get to reciprocate. This didn’t always work in my favour – usually I just got a weird look, but I also got two slaps to the face; and on another occasion, a coffee invitation and phone number (turns out Geoff was just her friend).

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Because even when your little bundle of joy has entered the world, people still seem to feel that it’s okay to come up to their pram and, without invitation, encouragement or permission of any kind, poke, prod and tickle your child while mumbling baby-like coos and hellos as if they were greeting an old friend – which, considering your baby’s age, is impossible. I find this behaviour quite distasteful. Can you imagine me doing this to you as a fully grown adult; just walking up to you in a shopping centre and tickling the length and breadth of your body, uttering, “Hello you, aren’t just soooo cute! Who’s cute? Who?” I’m fairly certain you would assume I’m a pervert or a nutcase, or both.

What really bothers me though, are the “helpful” folk. Not the ones who assist in carrying your pram up the stairs – they’re great. The helpful folk I’m referring to are the ones who assume that your skills as a parent are somewhat inferior to theirs, and feel the need to assist you, unasked. I’ll give you an example: recently I was shopping at a local supermarket when my child decided she wanted a banana, right then and there. Now just to put you in the picture, my child is not starving. In fact she’s rather well-fed, and while not fat, is far from a UNICEF poster child. She is, however, going through the tantrum stage, and wants what she wants, NOW! So there I was, in the middle of a crowded shop, trying to reason with my toddler as to why she couldn’t have a ‘nana immediately and feeling a bit embarrassed about the fuss, but also quite proud of myself for not giving in, since I was teaching my child a valuable lesson.

Suddenly a Helpful Lady approached and, sensing that she may have a solution to this crisis that I had somehow missed, offered my child a banana. Summoning up a fair amount of restraint, I politely explained to the Helpful Lady that I was trying to teach my child that she can’t always just achieve her life goals by screaming them out at the top of her lungs repeatedly while kicking her legs and ejecting liquid from her tear ducts. The Helpful Lady reacted by ignoring this statement, peeling the desired fruit, handing it to my child, and then – deciding she had spotted the real problem – looked at me sympathetically and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.” Did she really think I couldn’t afford a banana?! Did she not notice that behind my child in the trolley was a load of groceries, including an entire box of bananas?

That’s great, Helpful Lady, you’ve made my life so much easier, and I hope you’re still around when my daughter is 21 and is crying and kicking her legs in the middle of a luxury car lot, screaming, “Waaaaaah! I want an SUV!”

The only problem was, when I got to the till, Helpful Lady was nowhere to be found, and I still had to pay for the only half-eaten banana…