Today I read a post on another blog (the fabulous "Finnian's Journey"), and I had so much to say about it that I just decided to address it with a post of my own. The subject: how moms and dads handle strangers' questions about their child's development. You can read the post here.
Last week I had a similar experience. I was talking to someone I had just met, and she was asking about my job and my family – all the routine, small-talk stuff. Eventually the fact that I have a ten-month-old came up in the conversation, and her eyes lit up. And as they did, my tension level began to rise.
Here we go, over the cliff...
"Oh, ten months old. Such a wonderful age! Let's see, I bet he's crawling all over the place by now. Maybe pulling himself up, right?"
If my life was a movie, this scene would have been playing in slow motion. And as she spoke those words, the camera, fixed on my face, would have captured the transition from smile to thousand-yard stare. Because at that moment, my mind was shifting into overdrive. I was playing a mental game of "Choose Your Own Adventure," trying to size her up, trying to decide how much to tell, what to leave out, how to change the subject, and finally, how to end this conversation.
After a pause that was just a little too long, I answered:
"He's working on it."
She said something else about how she loved babies at that age, maybe asked me another question - I don't really remember the details because I had shut down by that point. And here's where being a guy helped quite a bit: I realized that I had just played the "uninterested dad" card, and she had bought it.
End of conversation.
It hurt a little bit, because I know her impression of me was probably not a great one. But in reality, I was operating in survival mode, trying desperately to protect us both from a very uncomfortable exchange. She had no idea how hard I was working to guide her safely through the minefield.
What can anyone learn from this? Well, probably nothing. She didn't do anything wrong. But please be aware that innocent exchanges like these aren't always so innocent to the other player. Your assumptions can actually be really intrusive and really unwelcome.
And that stoic guy with the thousand-yard-stare? He may just be the most loving dad on the planet.
4 months ago