Temerity Jane
19. 10. 2012

So I find myself struggling, sometimes, lately, with remembering how little I wanted to do with other people’s children when I was single with no children and just trying to live my life in public places and trying to enjoy my right to… enjoy those places, and how fresh those memories are, and how much I remember being that person, and how much I still am that person, and how much sympathy I have for those people when I am out in a public place with my admittedly pretty stereotypically terrible toddler, and how that rubs up against the fact that I do have a kid now, and there’s a whole lot of “what can you do?” and “I also have to live this life” and “I also need to be in this place” and a whole lot of boiling up feelings of MY BABY IS ALLOWED HERE that I do my level best to stomp down, because yes, of course she is, and I won’t be told any different, but there is a huge difference between my baby being allowed somewhere and my baby’s right to be somewhere spreading all over someone else’s right to enjoy being somewhere.

Anyway, you know what I’m saying? I’m in no way making an effort to be the cool mom lady. The mom lady who doesn’t change from her single, childless ways now that she has a baby, who is still hip and with it and doesn’t let having a toddler cramp her style. The mom lady who swears to always understand that the single, childless people have the God-given right to enjoy their lives without hearing a peep or seeing an errant streak of snot so their delicate other-people’s-poop free existence remain untainted.

(Note that I am not accusing single people of demanding this behavior, but I am instead making fun of a certain breed of parents who try to behave in this way. I can make fun of parents, it’s cool. I am one. Some of my best friends are parents. I’m allowed.)

No, I’m not the cool mom lady, and I’m not trying to be. My style is cramped. My style is tiny and hunched over. My style is stuffed into to go containers with a lot of mumbled, “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” on the way out of restaurants. That I still go to. Early.

No, I am definitely not a cool mom lady. I don’t want to be a cool mom lady. If I wanted the same life that I had before I had a kid, if I wanted my life to be as close as possible to my pre-child life, the best way to go about that would be to not have a baby. But I do try my best to straddle the line. I don’t expect the world to cater to me because I had a baby. (Oh, and they don’t. Holy shit you guys, how about the difference between pregnancy and baby? “Oh, a pregnant lady! Let me get that door for you, let me get out of your way, oh, excuse me, oh, you’re a treasure, smile, smile, smile!” And then, AND THEN, “Oh, a woman with a stroller and a diaper bag, and 40 shopping bags, let me let that door slam in your face, let me grab that last shopping cart out from under your hands, QUICK HIT THE DOOR CLOSE BUTTON.” Children: only adorable til born.) I take my crying child out of restaurants. I run errands during off hours when I have to take her with me. I don’t let her run through stores, I don’t let her unfold tables of clothing (seriously, your child is an asshole), I don’t let her ruin your day if I can help it.

Basically, I’m super-conscious about being That Mom. I really don’t want to be That Mom. I don’t want to be the woman I used to talk about. I don’t want to be the lady who thinks your world should revolve around her kid. But you know, I’m perfectly fine with the fact that mine does. For now, at least. It does. I’m not embarrassed about it. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. I don’t think it’s sad that I don’t have any bigger interests. I don’t think that makes me That Mom. I mean, take my Facebook account. I post about Penny constantly. Pictures, status updates, videos. I mean, it’s all Penny, all the time. When I read a friend’s status, though, and I catch myself about to say something like, “Yeah, when Penny –,” or somehow relate it back to my kid, I don’t.

I have not even begun to make my point.

Here’s the thing. You know how I am really into terrible in law stories? That, plus advice from old women about the fact that my child is never wearing socks, really soured me on the whole “it takes a village” thing. Well, plus we no longer live in villages. I don’t need anyone’s help in raising my child. You know what it takes? It takes me, my husband, and an Internet. It Takes an Internet. That should be what they say now. It Takes an Internet. 

Anyway, I thought the whole village thing was stupid mainly because I felt like it gave aggravating as hell people license to butt their stupid irritating noses into your business and tell you what to do, simply because their were AROUND, thus part of your VILLAGE, and you can’t get mad, because, oooh, villager, and, I don’t know, burning hay on pitchforks or something. I really never followed the metaphor all the way out. Or analogy. I never really followed that lesson all the way out. And please don’t take it upon yourself to actually give me the lesson in the comments. I have the Internet. If I was actually interested, I would use my Internet. Go back to your village. Damn!

Terrible or not, I have to take my toddler out in public. It’s part of my job, actually, to make her less terrible. She is kind of a demon, and we have some cross country flights coming up, and I just need her to be… less terrible. At least when other people can see her. So yesterday, she and I were running some errands, and she did pretty well. Kind of well. It was okay. Nobody really cried, not with actual tears. So, when we were finished, I took her for a snack at Starbucks. We got a water and a slice of lemon cake, because those things are fast, with no waiting, and we sat at a table to share them.

And Penny was just delighted. I mean, just fucking delighted. I think she’s old enough to know now, sort of, when something is a little bit of a special treat. She was out with just me, and I didn’t make her sit in a high chair. She got to pick the snack from behind the glass, though she really just kind of slapped at it. I had it in front of me, and was breaking off pieces for her, so she was getting some of “Mama’s snack.” She was really excited, but we’re working on keeping the exuberance and shrieking down to… not shrieking… in public. And she was doing great. I mean, in my opinion. She’s still a toddler. And I know that can grate on some people. And you have to understand, I’m not saying that snottily. In the townhouses I used to live in, there was a family living in the next set of units over, and they would put their kids outside to play very early in the morning on weekends, and they would play, indeed. Loudly. And happily. And I swear to you, there was no sound more awful to me than the sound of children’s happiness. I mean, it was terrible. I’m retro-hating it, even now.

So even though we were there during off hours, and even though she was being good – for a toddler – I was doing my best to be quick. I’m not trying to tell you I’m a cool mom lady, see above. I’m trying to tell you I’m aware, at least. I’m aware. I’m aware of the limits of my toddler, and I’m sympathetic to the limits of people in general where toddlers are concerned. There was a man working behind us, and several couples chatting, it wasn’t too crowded. I understand that those people were not my village. I don’t believe in the village concept. Or at least, I didn’t.

Every person that went by, Penny would kind of check them out, wave a little bit of lemon cake at them, and say, “SNAAAA!” Snaaa. Kind of nasally, really excited. It means “snack.” And “snack” means anything in a bowl, or anything that someone else is eating that she thinks she might be able to snake some. And I’d say, “Mmhm, snack. Remember, inside voice, okay? Eat over the table, wipe your face, etc, etc.” We’re working on becoming a functioning human being here, you know? And people would smile and move on, or say hi to her, or nod, or whatever. I don’t know, the split second interaction you have with a toddler who is making an effort to engage with you.

Except, except this ONE WOMAN, who came and sat down right near us, and who was only waiting for a drink, not there to stay who just deliberately turned her face away when Pen tried to SNAAAA at her. And okay, you know, I guess that’s fine. Okay. Okay. In fact, I think I remember snorting with laughter when I read a post online somewhere about a woman being angry when people wouldn’t smile back at her kid. Because that is ridiculous. No one is required to smile at your kid. That is how I was reasoning with myself. No one is required to smile at your kid. I am not That Mom, no one is required to smile at my kid.

Except even now (it’s tomorrow), I am still huffy and trying to tamp down my inner That Momness, because look, me and the Internet will tell my husband how we’re going to raise this baby, and we’ll go ahead and do it, and we’re not going to ask you, Starbucks Lady, to jump in and be the village and wipe her butt or deliberate over preschools or anything like that, I promise. Nothing. No villaging the baby. But for the love of shit, could you just engage a few neurons when she attempts to make social contact? I’m not asking you to join a tribunal and come to budget meetings, I’m asking you to just show a flicker in your eye sockets, anything, and only during this formative social learning period. I will wipe the asses, clean the snot holes, etc, and YOU “be the village” by helping her not become a sociopath. When we’re ready to move on to the “well, honey, some people are cunts” lesson, I’ll give you the nod. I’m sure it won’t be long, what with your cat butt-looking face walking around out there.

Is it even possible? IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE to parent without, to some degree, becoming That Mom? I hope I’m clear in that I don’t want to be a cool mom lady, I don’t expect to be thought of as such, but was it too much to expect that I could straddle the line indefinitely?

I don’t, I don’t really expect you to smile at my baby. I don’t really get mad. I mean, I do notice. I can’t help noticing. I don’t think the non-react-backers are awful people. They’re just people I take note of. I’ll present your names to the judge if Pen turns into an arsonist.


No but seriously. I don’t even know. You don’t have to. I don’t even. I’m both That Mom and not That Mom. I’m both. I don’t even know.



Over in the sidebar is a link to Phil’s fundraising page for the Extra Life marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network – specifically, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where Penny has been receiving treatment since she was very small.

I know a lot of you have already donated, and it is SO APPRECIATED. He blew his goal OUT OF THE WATER, and he was so shocked and grateful.

But now, he is only $68 away from earning $1000 for PCH, and that is INSANE.

I don’t have a lot to offer. What I have to offer is embarrassing in that… I don’t know if you even want it. But listen. Today is the last day. If you donate anything today – ANY AMOUNT – and Phil makes it over $1000 before the marathon starts tomorrow at 8am, I will do a TJ’s Cosmo Cliff’s Notes of your choosing, and promptly. No promising to do it and disappearing for 3 weeks. And “of your choosing” means any media easily available to me. It could be Cosmo, or any other magazine I can get off the shelf. Or? Any episode of a currently airing TV show. Or? A show available on Netflix streaming or Amazon streaming. Or a podcast. Or… or whatever. You donate, you choose.

I know. It’s not really… anything. It’s what I have. I mean, I can make you an 8-bit perler bead hair bow barrette. I can do that. If you donate $12 ($.50 per hour!) and you’d rather have that, I can make you one of those instead. It’s equally lame. I can’t help it. We’re a lame people. But we really do have good intent toward PCH!

Regardless of if he makes $1000 or not, the marathon is tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter to get pictures and updates of Phil’s progress, except for the hours that I’m asleep. Because, ha, no.

EDIT: HOLY CRAP. $1000 passed! BUT MY OFFER STANDS. Of course money for PCH is still welcome, we love them. If you donate today – ANY AMOUNT – just email me and let me know. Take your time to pick your media of choice and redeem it whenever.


Penny’s prepared to step in if needed.

48 responses to “Pitchforks and hay, cat butts, promises, and questionable prizes.”

  1. Becky says:

    I want people to smile at my kid too.

    Way to go, Phil!

    My favorite part of this is: “me and the Internet will tell my husband how we’re going to raise this baby”

    TJ Reply:

    Well, he does work full time, he appreciates having the Internet do some of the thinking for him.

  2. Maggie says:

    As someone who had no interest in having children until her early 30’s, I 100% understand your point. It’s one of those things no one can ever really tell you about becoming a parent if you had no interest in kids before you had them: once you become a parent, you will be eternally both That Mom and trying so hard not to be That Mom. I can’t go back to understanding people’s complete disinterest in children, but I also can’t forget what it was like to be That Person. My oldest is 9 and although I think balance has mainly been achieved, I still have the internal battle often.

    As an aside, I never thought it took a village until my oldest began playing sports and every damned practice and clinic begins during hours I am supposed to be at work and games all seem to happen at the time youngest is napping. Jesus, just getting the kid from place to place requires a village. Actually I really only need a driver, but Jeeves seems to be missing in my life.

    TJ Reply:

    I’m kind of hoping Pen grows into a thoughtful artistic loner who leads a kind of cave-y existence.

    Sandra Reply:

    Maggie, THIS!
    I was going to comment how once the sports and other extra-curricular stuff like Girl Scouts, start up during work hours or commute hours that the village concept becomes SO important or else my kids would not get to do those activities. Say my husband has to work Saturday but child 1 needs to be in City “A” for her game at 1pm while child 2 needs to be in City “B” for her game at 12:30pm. I’m obviously going to miss seeing a game but can someone at least help me by chaperoning my child whose game I can’t watch? Maybe take her home with you until child 1’s game is over? “Village”. The 1 on 1 ratio of Penny and TJ works out well. It’s when more than 1 child with one adult or 3 kids and two parents that cause the “Village” to really be needed.

    Sandra Reply:

    Maggie, THIS!
    I was going to comment how once the sports and other extra-curricular stuff like Girl Scouts, start up during work hours or commute hours that the village concept becomes SO important or else my kids would not get to do those activities. Say my husband has to work Saturday but child 1 needs to be in City “A” for her game at 1pm while child 2 needs to be in City “B” for her game at 12:30pm. I’m obviously going to miss seeing a game but can someone at least help me by chaperoning my child whose game I can’t watch? Maybe take her home with you until child 1’s game is over? “Village”. The 1 on 1 ratio of Penny and TJ works out well. It’s when more than 1 child with one adult or 3 kids and two parents that cause the “Village” to really be needed.

  3. Tric says:

    If I saw Penny in Starbucks I would probably just melt from the cute, and then you’d have to have the talk with her about not getting a big ego just because you happen to be amazingly adorable. I’m not sure if that is better or worse than the “well some people are cunts talk”

    TJ Reply:

    She’d probably learn to work the angle to snake you out of your snaaaaa before she got a big ego. She’s more crafty the proud. And snaaaaa motivated.

  4. Lacey says:

    Holy crap. I’m getting really sick of you saying exactly what I’m thinking and have never found the words to convey. I mean, I MIGHT have found the right words to convey this eventually, and now you’ve gone out and used all the right words up and there’s not even and semi-good words left for me to try and use later. Thanks a freaking lot.

    Seriously though. Move over a bit. There’s only so much room for us to both straddle this line.

    Laura Lou Reply:

    Yes, this. You said it all, but now I don’t have to. I try hard not to let my kids get in other people’s way (and they’re two energetic boys, so that takes a LOT of work) and not to infringe on others enjoyment of public spaces. But I would have been miffed at that lady too. The kids are people, albeit wee ones, and you wouldn’t completely snub an adult that smiled and said good morning to you. Well, maybe she would have.

    TJ Reply:

    I get so indignant when people treat Pen like she’s not a person because she’s a baby. Like we were in the ER once for some of her kidney stuff, and they took her temperature, rectally, with the triage door open to the whole waiting room. You would not DO that to an adult, or even a slightly older child. SHE IS A PERSON!

  5. Jane says:

    I am sometimes that person who doesn’t want to make eye contact or respond to a kid and honestly? It’s not that I don’t like kids or hate mommies or wish ill on anyone’s uterii or ovaries, it’s that I don’t want to interact with the adult and say the right things and whatnot. Because if you smile at the kid and are all, HEY THERE CUTIE, then you have to look at the parent and that leads down a slippery slope of conversation-having and obligations to ask questions like “How old is he?” and “Wow, that’s a lot of…hair!” and I want no part of that. So I snub the kid and get the hell out of Dodge, dragging my bitter life and latte behind me.

    Scanderoon Reply:

    I feel like there is no obligation for parent-conversation if someone’s kid tries to interact with you. Probably the parent doesn’t really want to converse with you either. I usually find that a brief smile or a couple of completely inane words directed at the child – followed by maybe a very quick glance at the parent – is all that’s required, and then I am on my way. Or if I am stuck beside them for a while, I look in the other direction, my duty having been accomplished. I am completely unused to interacting with children. And I hate conversing with strangers.

  6. Sarah Lena says:

    “I’m not asking you to join a tribunal and come to budget meetings..” And then I virtually high-fived you. I have a VERY social child. He thinks everyone is his friend and he loves to talk to people. And while I respect everyone’s right to smile and nod and then further ignore him, folks who PURPOSEFULLY IGNORE HIM IRRITATE ME. I have to think they also adopt young kittens merely to kick them.

    TJ Reply:

    The thing is, I’m not even asking, I don’t think, for a full on conversation back, or to kneel down and talk to Pen, or ANYTHING LIKE THAT. Just, when she waves a fist of lemon cake at you, and makes an effort to connect, just… nod. Just make a half-second of eye contact. These are small people working out how the world works and their place in it and how to reach out and make connections with other people – all KINDS of connections, and that INCLUDES how to interact with cat butt face in the coffee shop and dude on the sidewalk – and ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is make SOME KIND OF INDICATION that you have heard/seen/ ARE AWARE that the smaller, younger HUMAN exists. That’s IT. Be a fat fucking dickhead if you want, I’ll deal with explaining to my kid that fat fucking dickheads exist, I will have to at some point ANYWAY, but just… FLICK YOUR EYEBROWS. Let the kids know THEY ARE SEEN.


    TJ Reply:

    I AM That Mom, aren’t I?

    Just tell me. I can take it.

    I’m so torn.

    I TRULY ON MY INSIDES TRULY believe that no one has to act in any specific way, at all, ever, ESPECIALLY not specifically because I went and had CHILD.

    But then, at the same time, I am TRYING to create a functioning PERSON here and I just want a TINY bit of help. I’m just asking for the LITTLEST THING.

    But double then, I’m ASKING. And I slap myself for asking. Who am I to ASK? What, I go and shoot out a baby, and suddenly I think I have a RIGHT, a right to ASK things of STRANGERS?

    But triple then, WE ARE LIVING IN A SOCIETY HERE, PEOPLE, and it is one thing for me to tell my kid that it is good and right for all of us to put our shopping carts back when we are finished, but you know what, it would REALLY EFFING HELP MY CASE if some of the rest of you wangs would DO IT, TOO. SO JUST FUCKING DO IT, OKAY, SO THAT SHE WILL GROW UP AND DO IT.


    SO PEOPLE SHOULD… I’ve gone too far.

    Artemisia Reply:

    Exactly this!

  7. Delicia says:

    Honestly my first thought was that perhaps that lady had lost a child, or was unable to have children, and it could just be too painful to interact. Or, she could just be not in the mood. Or, could be a bitch. There could be a million reasons why she didn’t want to interact, I don’t know her story.

    I can say as a mom though, it’s REALLY hard to straddle that line, because my Momma Bear instinct rears it’s ugly head and even though I know I KNOW my little toddler is too young to “get” the snub, I feel it FOR them and get indignant. This has only gotten stronger as they get older and enter teen years where Jr High/High School is brutal with peer groups and such.

    TJ Reply:

    There could be a million reasons, sure, but a lot of people are also just kind of jerks, too. I mean, all of those things are possible for that one woman, but it’s also a post about more than one person.

    Plus, she had a really serious cat butt face. You had to be there. It was intense.

  8. Okay, so not that I’m That Mom/Not That Mom EITHER, but dude, she’s a human being and she’s saying, “HI!” to you. SAY HI BACK, FUCKER.

    P.S. I saw on Good Morning America today a story about a woman who got kicked off the bus because her 1-year-old baby (who she was taking to the HOSPITAL) shit his pants. KICKED OFF THE BUS. Chris and I were discussing it and he was like, “Good! Babies smell!” and I was like, “OMG LG you’re never getting on a bus with your father!” If I was on a bus (which right there should tell you I’m having a really shitty (heh) day, as I don’t *do* the bus) and someone tried to kick me off because my BABY had shit, I would have said, “She smells wonderful, fuck you.” Or I’d have changed her right there and horrified everyone. I’m still working out my plan.

    TJ Reply:

    GAH. RIGHT? Where is the line for NORMAL US to stand on? I mean, babies can be flat out TERRIBLE to be around, toddlers especially, and I absolutely understand that, and I understand that it is my job to get her to NOT BE TERRIBLE and if I can’t, to just get her away. Take her someplace else. There is just a level of terribleness that other people can not be expected to reasonably have to tolerate.

    But then, yeah, there are things you DO, as a person, REASONABLY HAVE TO TOLERATE. Sometimes my baby smells. And in the grocery store, she IS going to let out a random SQUAWK every now and then. If she’s not screaming up and down every aisle, I am the ref and I am calling the occasional ear splitting squawk reasonable and we will all deal. AND SHE WILL POOP ON THE BUS AND IT WILL BE STINKY AND I WILL BE RED IN THE FACE AND I WILL APOLOGIZE SO HARD, but TOO STINKY BAD!

    Now, if she reaches down the back of her diaper and flings that poop at you? Okay, we crossed that line a few steps back somewhere. Okay, kick me off the bus, I understand.

    susie Reply:

    Gold stars, both a ya.

    Dinsdale Reply:

    I’m not going to lie, if I were on a bus and a baby was stinky, I’d probably be pissed. And I’d probably make a cat-butt face and be very relieved when I got off the bus. But you know, I catch a bus to work every morning and there are often homeless guys on it, and they sometimes smell too. It’s a BUS. You are on it with other people, and sometimes other people, regardless of age, stink. DEAL WITH IT.

    jonniker Reply:

    This is my feeling. My only fucking feeling. If a STRANGER — an adult one — says hi to me, or in some way acknowledges my presence, then it is my HUMAN BEING DUTY to at least have the common courtesy to say hello back. I mean, right? If you did this to an adult, it would be considered RUDE.

    I don’t need/want/care if people fawn all over my kid(s). I don’t. I realllly don’t. I’m not That Mom, either. But my kids ARE fucking PEOPLE and hey, asshole, YOU were a kid once, so if a CHILD — a SMALL PERSON, operative word being PERSON — says hello to you, JUST SAY HELLO. JUST SAY HI. ONCE IS FINE. YOUR OBLIGATION IS COMPLETE. You don’t need to make googly eyes or converse with me (I’d rather you didn’t, actually), but just SAY HELLO TO THE PERSON ACKNOWLEDGING YOU. That’s it! Simple!


  9. Gaby says:

    Yes to everything you wrote here.

    I deal with the “What would it take to smile/give the nod of acknowledgement?!” issue at my job, too. As in, coworkers not being bothered to acknowledge that I am also walking down the hall and said hello. Purposely averting their gaze to avoid ANY social interaction whatsoever. And I’m not looking to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner, I’m just looking for the tiniest bit of human interaction/politeness! So this problem unfortunately exists beyond babyhood, and I think that’s a damn shame, because we all have to live with one another (VILLAGERS!), so the least we could do is be civil, and I feel that civility means eye contact, at the very freaking least. And dammit, your baby most assuredly deserves to be treated like a fellow human being.

  10. Natalie says:

    I would totally have smiled and possibly winked at Penny, because she’s a baby and she doesn’t know you don’t wink with both eyes. Also I would have admired that you were coaching her and not talking on your cell phone and letting her run amok in Starbucks.

    However, some of the stories you read out there… you sometimes have to weigh the possibility of crazy mamas. Look at the child too much or too little, either could be cause for drama! Ahh! As someone above said, sometimes it is better to avert your eyes than to get into a situation wholly unintended by just winking at a baby.

  11. Swistle says:

    Favorite parts:

    1. “what can you do?” and “I also have to live this life” and “I also need to be in this place”

    2. “Children: only adorable til born.”

    3. “I have not even begun to make my point.”

    4. “You know what it takes? It takes me, my husband, and an Internet.”

    5. from “and you can’t get mad, because, oooh, villager” all the way to the end of that paragraph

    6. “And I swear to you, there was no sound more awful to me than the sound of children’s happiness.”

    7. “No villaging the baby.”

  12. Artemisia says:

    I think this non-acknowledgement of little Penny is a symptom of society’s rapidly degenerating compassion, respect, and empathy. We’ve created this stupid line, and you guys end up having to straddle it. As if it wasn’t hard enough schlepping a car seat, diaper bag, and toys with you to feasibly accomplish an outing successfully.

    Babies are people. They are living things. Is it SO HARD to simply show some RESPECT toward them? And every other living thing out there, damn it. Hell! Let’s not even set standards that hi – don’t worry about respecting animals and plants and ecosystems. Just stick to humans! It is a good start!

    Your comfort is not the ultimate benchmark when deciding how to interact in society. Lordy.

    *end rant*

    Also: I don’t have kids nor plan to, if that helps interpret this rant.

    I try to recognize your difficult straddling act and hope I respect it.

  13. Artemisia says:

    er, hi should be “high.” Ooops.

  14. andie says:

    All of this! Kyle & I talk about this ALL THE TIME. We hate people but we still try to be civil. We hold doors for people behind us, we look to make sure we don’t let unintentionaly not hold it. The other mothers at our daycare (3 people) should at least acknowledge Kyle’s “hi”. He is way more antisocial than me, so it’s big when he speaks. damn bitches give back nothing! And how else is Alli gonna learn. i am full of rant. guess i’m playing WoW after dinner

  15. Karen says:

    So, here’s the thing. I’m a 30-something woman, I have no children, I don’t particularly like kids, and yet I’m trying desperately to have one (go figure). Also, I am socially impaired (desperately shy and afraid of offending anyone or making a fool of myself), so that probably has a lot to do with this, but: I almost never make eye contact with a child out in public. If I smile and acknowledge them, I’m extremely likely to do so when the child–and preferably the parent, too–are not looking. Why? Becuase YOU NEVER KNOW what the parent is going to think. I am terrified that if I do acknowledge the child, then no matter what I do or say, the parent is going to have an irrational reaction along the lines of “HOW DARE YOU LOOK AT MY BABY!” “How dare you say /that/ to my kid!” “Why are you so interested in my baby; get away you child abductor, you!” Or whatever. So in my head, the safest thing is to just AVOID AVOID AVOID DON’T LOOK OVER THERE PRETEND THEY DON’T EXIST NOW LEAVE BYE! Because that’s the only way I can think of to not offend. And now I learn that by doing thing, I may very well be eliciting the very reaction I was trying to avoid. :/

    On behalf of my people, I’m sorry. I shall try harder to follow my husband’s example: As soon as he’s near a baby, he starts making silly faces at them trying to get them to laugh (often successfuly), and he doesn’t stop until we’re out of range.

    TJ Reply:

    I do the relatively safe thing, I think, of just smiling at all babies. I always thought my own mom was weird, just smiling at random strange babies, but now I do it. I just… smile at babies.

    And if I notice a mom with a baby smiling at MY baby, I can be all, “Say hi, Penny!” as I zoom by. Because I still don’t actually want to have any real legitimate interactions. Because, come on, we’re all just trying to get our shit done, teach our babies not to terrorize the public, and get home to put on something elastic, right?

    Scanderoon Reply:

    I think, as TJ says, a smile is all that’s really expected. I personally am SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE with making silly faces at babies, so I would find that very difficult to accomplish. But a smile back at the baby, perhaps with a brief eye-flick to the parent, seems to be enough. And then I am on my way.

  16. Paula says:

    I used to be Cat Butt Woman. (Although, to be fair, I was just as unimpressed with my own toddlers as I was with strangers’.) But then, THEN, I read a mommyblog (dammit. it DOES take an internet) and something the writer said about herding her four under-fives, or maybe it was three under-fives and she was pregnant, I don’t remember, and I’ve forgotten exactly what she said, but since then I have not only engaged the child(ren) but I even offer help to the mom if she’s struggling. I know! I almost had to turn in my Born and Raised in New York City So Eff You Card!

  17. jelourai says:

    Love love love:

    “My style is tiny and hunched over.”
    “Children: only adorable til born.”
    “…no sound more awful to me than the sound of children’s happiness.”
    “…me and the Internet will tell my husband how we’re going to raise this baby…” (YESSSS)
    “When we’re ready to move on to the “well, honey, some people are cunts” lesson, I’ll give you the nod.”
    “I’m kind of hoping Pen grows into a thoughtful artistic loner who leads a kind of cave-y existence.”
    “…it would REALLY EFFING HELP MY CASE if some of the rest of you wangs would DO IT, TOO.”

    God, you are so quotable. Are these available as bumper stickers?

    I think that if that woman had an issue with babies, she should’ve chosen another seat. If I haven’t had my coffee and I can’t deal with other people’s joy in life, I sit somewhere else. Otherwise, common courtesy is to acknowledge when other person is being charming and adorable. It’s not that goddamn hard. I work in a large office and they did a big “customer service” push to encourage everyone to smile and greet people as you walk by them, and it’s really a wonderful thing, and I say that as a self-proclaimed people-hater.

  18. Sam says:

    I think this should not be considered a That Mom problem. If you, as a person going about your day happily thinking thoughts caught someone’s eye and smiled broadly and the receiver of said smile frowned cuntily© you’d be annoyed. It’s worse when it is your precious baby but the lady is still a bitch.

  19. shin ae says:

    Not that you asked, but here are my thoughts:

    Maybe this is a nation wide thing, or maybe not. I never noticed it until I moved where I am living now. I am referring to purposefully smiling at or saying hello to someone, only to have her (or him) look directly at your face and turn her (or his) head away. This particular, VERY offensive-to-me action seems to be customary where I live, as in practiced by the majority of people, and it drives me NUTS. Sometimes people will make an exception for children, but adults (as in, ME), NO SMILE. No acknowledgement. So weird. And RUDE. Anyway, I wonder if she’s one of those people, and one who doesn’t make an exception for babies. Not that I’m okay with it, because I am NEVER okay with it. Toddlers are people, and I am hugely against being rude to other people because they are not in a position to defend themselves, which is what happens to children all the time.

    Anyway, I think she was rude. I think it’s totally normal for mom claws to come out when someone’s rude to your kid. That’s what mom claws are for. Our kids need us to defend them because they can’t defend themselves. Not that you’d DO anything in that particular situation, but when it’s necessary that reflex is a good thing. You know what I mean, right?

  20. Lawyerish says:

    Whoa, nellie. There is so much awesomeness right here in this one post that I don’t know where to begin. But I high-fived my screen when I got to “me and the Internet will tell my husband how we’re going to raise this baby.” LULZ.

    Ok, so I am going to have to do a separate post about this so I don’t hijack your comments, but (1) pre-child, I had always gotten eye-rolly about people getting offended about others not acknowledging their baby in the supermarket or whatev, but with my own I had the same reaction as you: if she’s trying to connect, then just SMILE back for the love of Pete! or AT LEAST don’t cat-butt-face at her; and (2) now that F is older, we have the OPPOSITE problem, which is that random people talk to her on the street or in the store and she often clams up in response or sometimes even gets upset (because she is TWO), and the other people (it’s always older ladies) GET OFFENDED. “Well! SORRY!” or “I guess she’s SHY, HUH?!”

    And jeez, it is awkward, because I feel like I have to get all up in F’s grill to try to get her to respond even though she doesn’t want to, while falling over myself to laugh it off and be breezy to the random stranger, even as I am kind of wondering if they really think that every toddler should be wide open to having a chat with everyone who passes them on the sidewalk.

    Honestly, we’re right in the middle of these two extremes, because sometimes Felicity engages people in the park out of the blue, and I have to go over and hustle her away so as not to be That Mom; but then I also have to reassure strangers that she’s neither shy nor mute, she’s just TWO and not always instantly warm to people she doesn’t know. God!

    Suddenly I feel like going to live somewhere very remote.

  21. Regan says:

    I always smile at babies, people, everyone. Guess I’m a smile whore, lol. I also enjoy talking to new people, making new friends, ect. I think a lot of people avoid talking/interacting it strangers because they are 1.afraid or 2.too busy
    iam lucky that I have learned to slow down, and relax my fears. The best part is that my 3 year old is beginning to exhibit the same open friendliness. I do get snubbed from time to time, but instead of feeling bitter I just hope I can be a good example to the people who are snubbers. The more closed off we get from each other as a society, the more people become scared and indifferent to other people. But you miss it on meeting some great people and some real characters if you go through life looking the other way. And sometimes a smile can bring so much joy to someone else. I have explained to my three year old that some people just aren’t comfortable with talking to strangers, and some people don’t know how to be friendly and kind. The most memorable time was in the store when he smiled at someone and said hi and the person ignored him. He asked loudly “Mommy, why is that person so mean?”

  22. Becca says:

    maybe that lady had asperger’s or something and she didn’t understand the concept that she is supposed to smile back when someone else smiles at her.

    TJ Reply:

    Like I responded to a previous comment, sure, there’s 6000 different “maybes,” and it’s pretty common in blog comments for people to “rewrite” what happened with suggestions of any of the 6000 different “maybes” that it could have been, and then those suggestions quickly become the adopted “reality.” Maybe she had some disability. Maybe she had a family member die. Maybe she was having a bad day. Anything. Any of those.

    The real two realities are, though, that one, this is a blog post about an overall issue, really, and two, I was there, and this lady was just someone who didn’t feel like acknowledging a kid and deliberately didn’t and turned away, and that’s fine, and it’s what happened. You’re just going to have to take my word on that, because I was there.

  23. ZombiePirate says:

    I might be 2 days late to this post but what the hell I’ll agree with it anyway. My wife and I took our daughter on holiday to Wales this past summer, we went to the places I went to as a kid and we were standing there, on the sea front in a sandwich shop getting some lunch. Lucy is at the stage where she’s very chatty and will say “hiya” to anyone that walks within a range of 1-20 feet of her. So, in this shop we’re there waiting for the sandwiches and then another lady comes in with her I’d say 6-8yr old son. Lucy is being held by my wife so she looks at this woman and shouts “hiya!” and even after repeated “hiya”‘s she gets NO acknowledgement from this woman. We have a polite little girl that just wants you to say hello in repsonse and she’ll then be quiet. I hope your whole sandwich purchasing experience on a wet, rainy day in Aberdovey wasn’t ruined by a 17 month old saying hello!

  24. Alice says:

    my dad has always been SUPER good at having random stranger’s babies love him, and i asked him how he did it one time when i was little. his answer was along the lines of “most people ignore babies/toddlers/children, so i find that just looking them directly in the eye and acknowledging them is enough to make them pretty excited that a Full Sized Human wants to interact.”

    i found that a) this was excellent and true advice, and b) that was super sad, because if a little kid gets that excited/encouraged when an adult says hi, that is really shitty on the part of all those other adults who didn’t.

  25. Magen says:

    My 5 month old is a very loud child. She doesn’t cry really, she just yells. Whether it’s from glee or anger or something has peaked her interest, that’s just how she communicates her feelings. And let me tell you, anytime we are in public I have at least one person look at me (and my baby) with disgust.

    She’s just a baby I can’t really do the whole “Let’s use our inside voice.” bit yet because she is a BABY and unable to understand. I try to run errands without her when I have a chance to, but that’s not all the time and sometimes we all just have crap we have to get done. You shouldn’t be forced to hide your child away, how else will they ever learn to behave in public if they are never in public.

    The least that woman could have done was smile back. It took her more effort to turn away than it would have to just SMILE. I agree that babies need to be treated like human beings, becuase that’s what they are. They aren’t a different species just miniature for the time being.

  26. Erica says:

    Before I had kids, I was really, really afraid of them. I’m pretty sure I never straight up snubbed any babies, but if my half-smile looked especially pained, I swear it was just because I was seized with anxiety.

    I’ve mostly had the opposite problem with Anna, which is that for a long time she was terrified of all strangers (NO IDEA WHERE SHE GOT THAT) and all these well-meaning people saying hi to her in the grocery store would cause a full-on screaming breakdown. Kids in public, man. It’s tough.

  27. Lori says:

    I’m a little late to the discussion, but I just wanted to say something in defense of the non-engagers. My husband has Aspergers, or something like it. At any rate, he is very VERY shy, has weird hand/facial tics, and is incredibly anxious. He simply does not do interactions with strangers (unless he’s at work, and still, it’s barely tolerable most of the time). It doesn’t matter what age, creed or color. It’s not necessarily that he doesn’t want to–it’s that he just…can’t. He doesn’t know how. So maybe, just maybe, that’s something to take into consideration. It’s not that I don’t understand where you’re coming from, but maybe it would make it a teeny bit less insulting (again, I get where you’re coming from, but I can’t think of a better word) to know that interacting with Penny might not have been something she was able to do. Not even a little. And it didn’t have anything to do with Penny, really. Maybe.

    TJ Reply:

    I totally get that there are thousands of reasons why a person might not engage, but in this particular case, I was there, in Starbucks, and I do know what happened. I mean, you’re going to have to trust me and take my word for it, but a deliberate snubbing is what happened. I know it’s pretty common online to want to offer up alternate explanations for what COULD have happened, and I’m not oblivious to the possibilities. Trust me – go far enough back in the history of this blog and you’ll find plenty of reason why you can take my word for it. I do respect where you’re coming from, but as the third comment along those lines on this entry, it’s frustrating to defend myself against the rewriting of the situation that frankly, kind of makes me feel like the bad guy in a situation where there was no real bad guy.

  28. Tara says:

    So, I stumbled across this post looking for something SO unrelated. And I have to believe such things are meant to be. First, I was lured in by your writing, which is so inviting and so good. Thank you for that.

    AND, I’m that chick. Oh, I don’t have a cat butt face–strangers have approached me to tell me I’m pretty, so I feel confident that this is true. But I ignore the crap out of kids. I do not acknowledge them, and I am a well-liked friendly person about to hit 40. I know better, and I like who I am, and I do not like children. Moreover, I have a reputation for not liking children, magnets that proclaim this, t-shirts that meanly proclaim this (I said I was friendly, but my sense of humor is caustic–it’s a combo that has oddly enough won me friends and influenced people, but I digress), and I like the reputation.

    But a minor tangent: I mentioned the strangers that have told me I’m pretty? Well, people (strangers) tell me stuff all the time. I am more approachable than the average bear. And this has led to me purposely ignoring pretty much all people who appear to be paying particular attention to me. My friend Rachel is from out of town, and we were laughing yesterday because on two separate occasions, she came and sat near me in a Barnes & Noble back in the day. And she stared at me. I was VERY aware that the person near me was staring at me, but I had NO idea I knew them, and I actively ignored her for about five minutes–each time!–before she finally gave up and said, “TARA!” My point: I may not like children, but I am equally active in ignoring adult strangers, so please try to keep this in mind. My social skills are superb–but I am also superb at pretending I don’t have any, and I do it on purpose. I’ve got animal magnetism, where the animals are strangers. And I just refuse to acknowledge the magnet sometimes.

    And so here’s where the kismet of stumbling on your post comes into play: Even though I have a solid reputation as a child disliker and an equally solid reputation as a stranger ignorer (which would include children), I’m going to start acknowledging them when they are trying to get my attention. I’m going to smile at them. I’m not talking to them. But there can be an acknowledgement that they’ll be able to see.

    Because as a person who CAN communicate well, I can see from your post how important it is to you that your child be able to communicate well, and I had never thought about my role in that before. These days, the kids seem like they’re either on meds or a spectrum of some sort (spoken like an outsider, perhaps, but that’s how it seems from the outside), and so if I can use my ability to be a good communicator when I want to, and knowing that you have the blessed internet backing you and your husband up, well, I can damn well do my part and smile instead of being the village idiot. I can reinforce your very awesome lessons in good communication and behavior by letting her know that her normal-for-a-kid behavior is appreciated.

    I cannot, I admit, promise to do that to the kids who peer from their booth over or under the divider at me. But for the other stuff, where communication is reasonable, I’m going to remember your post, and I’m going to do my part. I might not be in the village, but I can model good socialization, particularly when I think of how I want future generations to be able to communicate well as adults. I see value in smiling at kids now, and this is thanks to your post.

    It should, by the way, be noted that I RELISH having some people think I’m a bitch sometimes, so it certainly doesn’t bother me. I’m kind of proud that I can provide different projections of myself. You (or your readers) might think I’m a bitch, in which case, I’m communicating that part of me well. But hopefully, no matter what you think of me, you’ll be glad to know that a sometimes-bitch-child-disliker is going to smile at the kids who may or may not consider themselves part of the village but are certainly going to be on the internet with me someday. And you, my dear, are the one who changed my mind.

    I admire that immensely. You will probably be raising a darn good kid. This should not imply a willingness to babysit. (No one in their right mind would let me babysit, thank gawd.)