Hello Stranger, Here’s Leo, My Baby

Should mother’s instinct be the best judge of a child’s safety?

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Little Leo with a ‘stranger’ uncle! 

“Do you regularly hand your child over to strangers?”, asked the concierge of the hotel where I take Leo swimming. I’d just passed Leo over to his colleague who was busy making the little boy laugh. He was sort of joking but the tone of his question insinuated that I’d off-loaded my son too easily.

Last month, while on my way back from my in-laws, I handed Leo over to a passenger who was sitting next to me on the train. He made funny noises, made Leo giggle, and we both agreed that the boy was very lovely indeed – just your everyday, polite conversation. Afterwards, when I recounted how Leo had no problem going to other people, a friend remarked “Oh Sim, you’re soooo trusting with strangers”.

I’d never realised the negativity that the word “stranger” is imbued with till this happened. The criticism is two tone: there’s me, bad mama, for handing over Leo, and there’s “the other”, the unknown entity who Leo’s being handed to. So, may I take this opportunity to have a rant please? Here goes: I mean REALLY? Even though I’m right there? I mean I couldn’t be more right there unless I too was sitting in this person’s lap. I didn’t have the boy out of my sight even for a split second, except for when I blinked!

Mama’s Watching You

Perhaps I should ask for people’s CVs where they highlight their child-friendliness, along with a cover letter on why they’d like to cuddle a yummy baby for a minute? That’s right, just a minute, and an arm’s distance from me, the mama grizzly. It’s not like they are walking away with him, taking him out of my sight. Come to think of it, that is what happened all the time when I was in India, where whoever I met would pretty much grab Leo from my arms within 10 seconds whether I offered or not, take him for a walk, chatting loudly and pointing out things… while I hung behind, waiting for the boy to inevitably cry and come back to me. He did this a couple of times and after that, he was very happy to be carted off and get a break from his mama!

People in the UK rarely ask to hold babies in the first place, and when someone does, it’s more often a woman than a man. Men might want to, but they are so stigmatized in the Western society with regards to child abuse, I’m certain it’s a factor for keeping their distance.

Trust Your Instinct

There’s no right or wrong here, and far be it from me to give gyan (really!) but please can we trust a parent to know what he or she is doing? Surely their child is the most precious thing for them and the child’s happiness paramount and they wouldn’t under any circumstances hand the child over to someone who looked like a cannibal or an axe murderer – and those are the types who look frighteningly normal anyway.

There are practical and philosophical reasons for us to be vigilant but be open to strangers. If people don’t interact with us, our families, then in case of an emergency or when a parent is having a bad day and needs help, people won’t just NOT know how to help, but they may be disinclined to, after all why should they. And come on, life’s too darn short to be afraid of everyone you don’t know and close your heart to anyone who’s a “stranger”.

(The author is a former TV journo and currently the Head of Communications and Marketing at Anthemis Group in London. She became Mama to baby Leo in April 2015. She started this blog as an outlet for the intense, roller-coaster experience that pregnancy and motherhood entail. And for recording the journey with as much humour - black mostly - as she can cram in. Oh and dispensing free gyan as she ticks the been there, done that milestones.)

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