The #1 Baby Rule of Reciprocal Introductions: “If someone approaches you to inquire about your baby and is carrying a baby of their own, proper etiquette decrees that you are obligated to acknowledge their baby and make similar inquiries of him or her, whether or not you care!”
I didn’t even know this unspoken rule existed until I became acutely aware of its absence today!
Picture this scene: I take my baby over to see another little baby, who is kicking and cooing in her car seat while her mother packs up groceries at the store. We peer into the seat and say hello. The baby smiles and coos some more. The mother ignores us, and actually walks right around us to put her groceries in the cart without making eye contact.
“How old is your baby?” I ask the back of her head.
“Five months.” The woman finally makes eye contact, but doesn’t look at my baby, who is bouncing in the Baby Bjorn carrier right on my front.
“Thanks.” Back to loading groceries. Fine, maybe she’s in a hurry.
“What’s her name?”
“Thanks.” She turns her back on me.
I walk away, back to my cart. All of a sudden, I feel supremely offended that she did not made a single inquiry about my baby!
That was not my goal in approaching her baby in the first place; I don’t have a bizarre baby-centric complex that gets soothed by having people acknowledge my child! It comes down to the basic fact that moms love talking about their kids (as irritating as this can be), and if I go out of my way to interact with someone’s child, I expect the interaction to be reciprocated on some level. Just asking the same questions of my child as I ask of yours is a way of relating instantaneously as mothers. We both know what it’s all about. Babies lead to camaraderie; they’re a common accessory that we’re both carrying, a mutual point of interest, a shared experience.
Perhaps the questions stem from a desire for comparison. Moms do that all the time. I want to know how old another baby is to compare my child’s development. We like having a measuring stick of some kind, and what better way than to meet other babies of the same age? I know they all develop at different rates, but it’s still fun to compare. As for names, I just like names! It’s fascinating to hear what other people choose to name their children; sometimes I love it, other times I’m horrified, but my questions are always born from innocent curiosity.
I don’t want to overreact, because maybe that lady was in a big hurry and didn’t want to be stopped. I’ve been there, too – all those gushy old ladies who want to fondle the baby’s hands and face when he’s in fact just getting over a cold and I don’t want anyone near him! Or the people who stop to ask a whole string of questions while my toddler has disappeared around the end of the grocery aisle and needs to be chased! Or, worst of all, when someone has an intense conversation with your baby and never makes eye contact with you, despite you standing there with a dumb grin on your face, waiting for them to look up, but no, they just walk on!
I really don’t think that today’s grumpy mommy was in that big a hurry. She just didn’t care one hoot about my kid! Why not?! I’ll never be able to answer that. She’s that way for whatever reason. But, thanks to her, I learned today about the #1 Baby Rule of Reciprocal Introductions. Basic concept: if someone asks the age, you ask the age. A name for a name. Throw in a compliment for a compliment, if you’re feeling generous. Just be friendly, please, for the sake of the kids we’re trying to raise! Let’s be a good example for their sake.