Friday, June 29, 2012

Men and Babies

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a question for you: how do you feel and react when a man looks at your child/ren and smiles?

You can leave me your answer, along with any related musings, in the comment box at the bottom of this here page.

Here is why I ask:

Every weekday at lunch time I leave my office and I walk to ASDA to buy a banana. I have to go every day to buy my banana, because I’m extremely picky about the ripeness of the bananas I eat. Unless they’re just past the point of being green they make me feel physically sick.

But this is not a post about my banana based foibles.

This is a post about me being made to feel awkward on a regular basis.

Recently, on my trip to ASDA, I smiled at a baby in a trolley. I did this because I like babies. You may have noticed this. I am the son of a broody mother and a broody father. Broody is bred into me like respiratory problems are bred into English Bulldogs.

Inhalers are just out of shot.
When I see a baby (unless it’s an ugly one) I go all mushy like an over-ripe banana. I want to say hello. I want to hold it and cuddle it and look after it. I want to tell its parents how beautiful it is and how lucky they are.

I don’t actually DO any of that. I smile as I walk past and that’s it. I have a concept of personal space and parental fears over child safety and I respect that.

Apparently, for some people, that’s not good enough. Judging by the frequency with which I have glances directed at me which could pierce the armour plating of a tank it is definitely NOT OKAY for a man to smile at a baby or young child.

Whenever it happens I feel immediately like I need to run away and hide. Needless to say, I don’t much want accusations of paedophilia being thrown my way while I’m out shopping. Nor do I want anyone thinking I’m a potential kidnapper.

The glances don’t just make me feel awkward. They make me feel sad. Sad that the first thought in a lot of people’s heads is not “oh, he thinks my baby is cute”, it is “oh, that man means some harm to my baby”.

I’m not a woman, so I don’t know whether this happens to women. Maybe it does. But I wonder whether this is actually one of the few occasions where men are on the receiving end of gender discrimination.

So what’s the deal? Do I need to stop smiling at babies, reign in my natural gooey tendencies? I certainly don’t want everybody to stop smiling at Cam. He seems to like it, and it makes me feel proud of having a lovely little boy.

Thanks for reading.

17 comments:

  1. Feck the idiots who disapprove and carry on smiling at the babies. Babies deserve smiles. Idiots deserve ignoring. Xx

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  2. Point of view 1) I've noticed exactly the same thing when I'm out and about but don't have the Munchkin with me. I forget she's not with me and smile at babies and sometimes strike up conversations with mothers. This always ends in pretty much the same way - the mother giving me that 'get the hell away from me and my baby before I call the police you fecking weirdo'. I constantly have to remind myself that this happens and to avoid looking at babies when out and about.

    Point of view 2) When I'm out with the Munchkin and a guy looks at her and smiles the first thought is ALWAYS 'Why is he smiling? what does HE want with my baby?' yet this is never the case when women smile at her. I don't understand myself why I think like that, it could be some deep psychological thing where in long past history the male was the dominant and would off the children of any other males that he though was a threat, y'know to keep them in place - like lions. Or it could just be that guys are not normally into babies and when they are they are normally the ones on the front page of the news of the world (sorry, Sun on Sunday!). I think the former is the most likely though.

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  3. I think society has made it hard for men to be nice & kind to any children... Don't get me wrong, there are men & WOMEN out there that ARE BAD but that is a small minority. If anyone smiles at my children then I tend to engage them in a conversation, that way, the situation isn't awkward & I can also get a better judge of that person... My grandad used to tell me he was going to bite my bum when I was 2 or 3, as you do playing, yet when the same thing was said 22years later to my daughter, his great granddaughter, people would look at him with discussed....

    You keep smiling darlin, the world needs more kind hearts... Xx

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  4. I smile at babies, sometimes even play peek-a-boo with them. A lot of the time parents don't even notice, and I find myself trying to avoid them noticing, for all the reasons you describe above. Sad, isn't it.

    I'm struggling to think of an occasion where another man HAS smiled at either of ours, which I guess means one of two things: either it hasn't happened (which would be sad - and I guess unlikely) or I've never thought enough of it to file away for later (which is better - why shouldn't we get to smile at babies?)

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  5. Since our little man was born I cant help but smiling at other peoples babies especially new borns who just look so peacefull. I've never really thought anything about it to be honest but if people dont like it I don't think I'm going to worry, I know my intentions are honest as do you.

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  6. I get this all the time from women. I can't help but smile. My wife gets sneered at by other women when she's escorting the Buggle on her adventures. It could be jealousy. I don't know. People are strange. But there's nothing wrong with smiling. If I get smiled at by a man looking in the pram I appreciate it but I also understand it. We are far beyond the ideals of "Nonce Sense" or at least I like to think we are. I wrote a similar piece which engages the same ideals as you've just written about. Keep smiling sir.

    @DustandLove

    http://dustandlove.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/take-a-smile-with-you/

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  7. I think we are all cautious to some degree and rightly so but I can't say I've ever worried about a man, or woman for that matter, smiling at Munch when we are out and about. I always think it lovely that strangers want to engage with him in a friendly manner; I do still like to believe that the majority of folk out there are good. Keep smiling - it's what babies are good at making us do!

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  8. I think it's lovely when men smile at my/other children (unless of course they look really creepy, which you're obviously not!). It makes me wonder if they have any children; a pregnant partner or just would like children in the future. (It was my husband's interaction with children that attracted me, before of course his extreme handsomeness!)

    As for women smiling at children, there doesn't seem to be as much of an issue. However I have found that if I smile at a child with its parents then I get looked at closely by the mum, sometimes even glared at unless I mention I have children as well, at which point they relax.

    Don't stop smiling at babies! It's lovely!

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  9. There's a weird smelly man travels on the bus who always talks loudly to any children who happen to be there & gives them sweets. Definitely creepy. He offered my 6 year old daughter a packet of Butterkist a couple of weeks ago. He did this without asking my permission first. Daughter politely declined so she clearly got the same vibe as me & I was proud that my 'stranger danger' message had got through. However, too many people are waaaaaaay too paranoid that there's a paedo lurking on every corner (or every fruit & veg aisle). Yes, be cautious. Yes, be vigilant. But for flip's sake use your common sense! So definitely carry on dishing out the smiles. They're free & they brighten up the day!

    Oh, and I have the same issues with bananas.

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  10. Time to move back to Germany where the majority of people are not completely paranoid and education is generally better anyway?

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  11. I love people smiling at Isaac! Touching is another matter and different post entirely- I may write that soon.
    It isn't just you though... When I was pregnant, and on high baby radar alert I used to smile at all babies and the amount of mothers who glared at me until they realised I was pregnant was ridiculous.

    Personally though, I find something quite heart warming about a young bloke smiling at kids. Old men and tramps not so much.

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  12. I find its when I get the sweeties out and say do you want to see my puppies that I get funny looks! Seriously - I have no problem with men folk smiling at my kids even though paedos are like rats you're never that far away from one - what you gunna do suspect everyone.

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  13. I have one of those faces that other people's babies always seem to like looking at. They smile or giggle even if I'm not looking at them, then their mums are like looking back as if I'm some demon. I always feel compelled to quickly say, "got two of my own at home" or "cute when they are that age" as if to justify my father status and ergo I'm ok lol ;-)

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  14. I enjoy making funny faces at little kids when their parents aren't looking and then acting oblivious while they get yelled at for sticking their tongue out at a stranger. This is also a fun way to pass the time while sitting at traffic lights. Good words my friend, keep it up!

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  15. I would ignore them. People are unnecessarily protective and sexist against men in this situation. But if it helps there are some parents who do not appreciate any form of sociability. I think when you become a parent you do join this invisible club and it's nice to chat to others. Unfortunately, some parents didn't get the memo. You should have seen them in London last weekend, no way are you allowed to make eye contact, let alone talk to them!

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  16. Oh for heaven's sake, you're only smiling while you walk past, what is the big deal? If you were trying to strike up conversations and asking about the child's whereabouts or attempting to touch them or entice them with treats then that's the time to get wary. It's sad that this attitude exists. Women can be just as much of a danger as men yet they're never seen as a 'threat'

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  17. Oh crikey, it is sad. There is a massive (and obvious) difference between a friendly and smiling stranger and a creepy potentially dangerous person. My 21month old courts flagrant attention off anyone she can and I love it that it brightens up her trips round supermarkets. She has started getting VERY cheeky though and trying to sneak cuddles off people in queues. That said, as long as no one runs off with her (hard when I am RIGHT THERE) I see no harm. Some people should relax!

    ps. I agree about the bananas

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