I understand babies are adorable, and it’s hard to overcome the compulsion to pinch their chubby, pink cheeks and grab their tiny fingers. But for the sake of germ-fearing parents everywhere, I certainly wish people would learn to keep their hands to themselves.
Every time I’m out shopping, running errands or enjoying a meal in a restaurant, I cringe when I see a stranger reach out to touch my daughter. I realize it’s a good-natured gesture, but that doesn’t make me any less apprehensive about having an unknown individual make contact with my 10-month-old, whose immune system still isn’t fully developed. I sometimes toy with the idea of hanging a “please don’t touch” sign on her stroller.
My reaction when this first happened was shock that anyone would touch a young baby without first asking the parents’ permission.
These days, however, few things surprise mae. I’ve seen people caress my daughter’s face, kiss the top of her head and lift her up without getting the go-ahead from my husband or me. Once, I watched in horror as Reese dropped her pacifier on a restaurant’s tiled floor and, before I could stop him, a gentleman passing by picked it up and popped it back in her mouth. I managed to thank him for his help, but I wanted to shriek. Miraculously — knock on wood — Reese has never been sick.
The most recent example of this egregious boundary-crossing occurred last Saturday at a Starbucks in Savannah. Reese and I were enjoying a skinny vanilla latte and a slice of pumpkin bread — OK, I was enjoying the refreshments; she was enjoying shredding a paper napkin she managed to get a hold of when I turned my head for a nanosecond. Suddenly, a man I’d never met before grabbed my baby’s little hands and jiggled them up and down.
“You’re certainly cute!” he exclaimed — which is true — and I appreciated the compliment, so I decided not to drop-kick him.
As soon as the man left, though, I began to rub hand sanitizer all over Reese’s hands. I looked up in time to see another Starbucks patron head in our direction.
“Does she like that?” an older gentleman asked.
“Well, it doesn’t seem to bother her,” I said before turning to face our latest visitor. “You probably think I’m crazy for putting hand sanitizer on my baby, huh?”
“On the contrary,” he said with a smile. “I’m a physician, and I applaud your hygienic efforts. There’s no better defense during cold-and-flu season than keeping your hands clean at all times. Carry on.”
And he walked away.
Well, I thought, that was a strange encounter. But at least a doctor endorsed my germ-blasting methodologies.
And, more importantly, he didn’t touch my kid.