Hands Off My Baby!
What's a mother to do when a well-meaning stranger picks up her baby without permission?
I predict we’ve all been in this situation at least once. A well-meaning stranger (maybe a friend of a friend or even someone you know casually; but for all intents and purposes, a stranger to your baby) picks your child up without your permission. It happened to me last week, and let me tell you, my toddler let everyone within a five block radius know she wasn’t happy about it.
Vivian and I were at a rather large event where various businesses were sharing their product lines to the media, and I had stopped to talk to the makers of a kindergarten-readiness app. Not 2 minutes into our conversation, the gentleman giving me the demonstration leaned over to scoop Vivi up and show her the app. Well, he immediately put her down when she started screaming and flailing her body around. Directly afterwards she went running towards me and bit me in the thigh. It was all rather awkward (and painful!), and though I know he didn’t mean to cause any harm, he still should have asked my permission before picking her up. Regarding the bite on the leg, I don’t know if she was mad at me for allowing this travesty to happen or was simply so upset by the situation that it was a natural response.
So what’s a mother to do in this situation? Should I have let him have it?
Susan Stiffelman, a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist (and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles) had this to say about strangers touching your baby/toddler:
“At each step along the parenting road, you will have to figure out what feels right to you, and then let go of worrying about whether other people will approve of your decisions. It’s not possible to please everyone, so my suggestion is that if you’re uncomfortable when someone starts petting your baby, don’t fall over yourself apologizing. Be kind and friendly, while asserting your wishes.”
She suggests the following polite ways to discourage the stranger-touch:
• “She’s irresistible, isn’t she? I know it’s hard to not touch, but I would rather you say ‘Hi’ without handling her.”
• “My baby’s a little shy. Would you mind backing off a bit?”
• “Feel free to look, but I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t touch.”
I’ll certainly remember these tips the next time this inevitably happens. And here’s to hoping there will be no more teeth prints in my leg as a result!
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