“All unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy.”
….sign in a shop window
I sympathize with the owner’s wry sentiment. It’s a tiny store with narrow aisles and plenty of kids roaming among the knick-knacks. I’ve been known to avoid stores entirely until the kids go home. It’s not their fault. Kids are doing what comes naturally – testing the rules, wandering away from their parents, bumping into things and picking up breakables. If their parents look away for a couple of seconds, kids will leave the store with the goods. That’s how they sometimes behave.
I was always the person annoyed by screaming babies on the plane. Sure I knew they couldn’t help it, but since I’d pretty much raised mine, I deserved a break, so whenever possible, I changed seats.
I like kids but I was never anybody’s Universal Mama. I didn’t try to befriend every child I met and didn’t ask to hold every new baby. I enjoyed raising mine more than anything else I’ve done so far, but after she took her own steps into the world, I was content getting back to my own life.
A few years ago, sitting in the boarding area at San Francisco International, a baby screamed and the parents couldn’t comfort her. Something inside me shifted. My first thought was not the usual – I hope they don’t sit near me on the plane. Nope. This time it was – why aren’t those parents taking better care of that poor little thing?
The small town I live in is full of children. Every other person in the checkout line is attached to a stroller. One day I found myself making direct eye contact with a spiky-haired toddler with a messy face. I don’t know what manner of sticky cookie had attacked him while his mommy shopped, but he grinned at me through the gook and I grinned right back at him and felt a pang when he left the market.
One day you’re minding your own business, steering clear of noisy kids and all of a sudden every child – everybody’s child – becomes precious.
Maybe the universe prepares a whole bunch of us for on-call nurturing duty because a new batch of vulnerable beings arrives every day. Nature has been known to turn unusual species into willing caretakers so that babies and puppies and kittens and all manner of helpless creatures will find care when they need it.
Ó Anita Garner 2009