A while back, my son (about five months old at the time) and I met a lovely woman on an elevator. He smiled brightly at her, and she struck up a conversation about babies and motherhood. She was really sweet, and it was a nice little exchange.
But then, it happened: she reached out to touch my baby. She grabbed his little hand, smiling as she continued talking to him.
Warning bells went off in my mama head, but before I could think of what to do or say, we had reached our floor. So I smiled weakly and wished her a good day as we exited the elevator. Did that just happen?
Surprisingly (to me at least), this is a common occurrence. Apparently, many people think it’s perfectly okay to touch babies they don’t know without asking. I discovered this happened to several of my mom friends too, and not one of them really knew how to respond.
Why I Said Nothing
I was caught off guard, and I honestly didn’t know what to say or do. I felt extremely flustered and, in an effort to remain polite, I did nothing. Even though my mama instincts told me this was wrong, I didn’t want to be rude to this woman who was so sweet to me and my child.
I didn’t want to be judged.
My son was born during the height of flu season, and I did a lot of clean-hand inspections before I let friends and family touch my baby. But let’s face it, it’s a little awkward asking a grown adult if they washed their hands after coming out of the bathroom.
So maybe I didn’t say anything because subconsciously I thought I’d come across as an overbearing, germ-a-phobic, paranoid, helicopter parent.
But it’s a big deal!
The other thing is that this woman was a complete stranger. Unfortunately, the world we live in requires that we be vigilant when it comes to our kids. And though she was incredibly sweet, I didn’t know her.
What I Wish I Would Have Said
Later, I thought a lot about what I’ll do differently the next time a stranger tries to touch my baby. I decided I’ll politely say, “Thank you for playing with him, but I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t touch his hands because he likes to put them in his mouth.” I feel like that hits all the major things: it’s assertive, but polite; firm, but kind.
It’s hard to know what to do when someone tries to touch your baby. I wish I would have had the courage to speak up, and I know I will in the future. It’s my job to be my son’s advocate, and if I don’t stand up for him, who will?
Has a stranger ever touched your baby without your permission? What did you do?
Originally published September 2018.
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