How would you like to go to a brand new place, have some strange giant pick you up, get all up in your space and repeatedly tap your face until you grimace in such a way that it convinces the giant that you’re smiling. The giant will then proceed to bounce you up and down whilst waving your arms around and banging your fists together as if you are clapping until another strange giant comes over and repeats the entire game from the beginning again… Personally, I’d rather not. I’m a big fan of my personal space. Don’t get me wrong, I can be quite affectionate, I love a good cuddle and I like being physically close to people who are important to me. I love meeting new people, but I’m always a little wary at first, just trying to find my feet before I dive right in there. I like my little personal space bubble to be respected, and I am really trying to ensure that Bo has the same respect given to her.
People love babies. There is something really magical about a little person. Their little tiny feet, their chubby hands, those cheeks… they are magnetic, there is absolutely no doubt about it. Long before I ever held my own child I felt drawn to children, the purity, the naivety, the beauty is enchanting. So I completely understand that people want to look at Bo, how could you not? She’s spectacular. I even understand when people want to squeeze those chubby pillow feet sticking out of the sling when we are at the beach. I love that people talk to her when she is in the safety of my arms – it gives her a chance to interact with the world whist still feeling secure and protected. It allows her to transition into this big world gently.
What I don’t love is people tapping her face repeatedly trying to make her smile. I don’t love people leaning in until they are an inch from her face and making loud noises at her. I don’t love people bouncing her up and down and talking loudly at her and treating her like a puppet, especially when it’s nap time and she’s tired. I don’t love people trying to pick her up out of my arms when she is snuggled in close. I certainly don’t love completely strangers trying to take her from me on the beach… whilst culturally all of these things are totally acceptable here in the village, for me however they are not. For my child, they are not. I know people don’t mean any harm… but I also know people don’t always think beyond their own little bubble.
These things don’t only happen here. They happened a lot when we were in Australia too. The only difference is that in Australia I have no qualms about telling people no, picking up my child and giving her what she needs – regardless of how that may make other ADULTS feel. Here I do the same but I’m not quite as linguistically capable of explaining my actions, so I’m afraid at times I probably come across as a real bitch.
Some people may say I coddle her, others may say I’m controlling, some people may think I’m not being respectful of my elders – there are always plenty of critics. I know there are parenting “methodologies” out there that would say I’m spoiling my child, but I don’t believe it for a second. I try to be as respectful of others as possible. But my respect for my child trumps my respect for anyone else… I’m on her team first and if that means the strange woman on the beach and the surrounding crowd think I’m awful for not handing my precious baby over to her, so be it.
One day Bo will be able to tell me how she feels, and she will be able to show me what she’s ok with and what she’s not. One day she won’t need me as her advocate (even though, let’s face it, I always will be) and she will be free to do what she feels ok with, and I will trust her implicitly to do so. For now however, I’ll protect her and build her up and by respecting her as a person I’ll help her to learn how to respect herself, something that so many young women out there have forgotten how to do.
Have you had to manage cultural expectations that have been placed on you as a parent? Have you ever had to challenge them?