As a kid, there were plenty of things that I swore — SWORE! — that I wouldn’t do when I became an adult. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten what all of them were, so I’m probably doing them all the time. Oh, yeah, I remember now; I swore I’d never exclaim to my young nieces and nephews how BIG they’ve gotten! I was a pretty literal kid, I guess, and the exclamation that I was much bigger seemed excruciatingly obvious and tautological to me. “Yes, auntie, it has been a year since you’ve seen me, OBVIOUSLY I’m bigger. Sheesh!”
Well, too bad, young me, I’m gonna be an unrepentant cheek-pincher. I shall make the obvious, dorky observations, embarassing my young relations, and they will seethe. And then, someday, they will make those very same observations. It’s all part of the Great Wheel of Embarassment.
More insidious is the urge I’ve been feeling to bother expectant mothers. I used to be scared of babies. For one thing, how do you hold them? They’re wriggly! What if you drop them? What if they explode, or pee, or something? Of course, that all changed with daddy-hood; now, I view babies as a kind of highly entertaining bean bag, usually with good smells and laughing (usually.) If it’s your baby, you know what to do when the baby starts crying. If it’s not, you can jolly well just hand it right back again. So that’s good.
So I’m not scared of babies any more, but I also have stopped viewing expecant moms as an atomic unit and started seeing them as a molecular collection of units. When Kate was pregnant, I pretty much just saw her as Kate, but with a new, pregnant shape. But still all Kate. Seeing Lydia born changed all that: “holy cow, there’s ANOTHER PERSON in there!” So now when I see a hugely pregnant woman in the train station, it’s a lot easier to realize that there’s a little upside-down, curled-up person hanging out on the station platform, too.
Which, coupled with my newfound strongly baby-positive attitude, is giving me the urge to say “hi!” to the mom, and then plant both hands on her belly, lean in, and exclaim “hi there!” to her baby. I’m not saying I’d ever do it in a million years, but…
…well, actually, I guess I am saying that I’d do it in a million years. In fact, it’s pretty hard to resist not doing it, since babies are such a happy little bridge across social boundaries. Hey, babies are pretty much overjoyed to see any smiling face, right? How’s about I just go ahead and say “hi?” “Hi, baby! HELLO IN THERE!”
What the hell is wrong with me? Maybe nothing, since that seems to be a common horrifying behavior, the complete-stranger-handplant-and-shout. Dear God, I hope I can exercise some restraint in this regard. I’ll go pinch some cousin’s cheeks instead.