Parenting in Public: Smiles and Games

Yesterday, mentioned one of the most annoying things about being car-free — having random strangers come up to you and criticize your parenting.  Lest you think it’s all annoyances, I thought I’d balance that post with one today about some of the joys of interacting with random strangers on a daily basis.

We ride the bus a lot.  We know there are lots of people who would prefer we not take up any more space than possible, and we try our best to be compact, but sometimes, my back is bothering me and I can’t wear Jesse in a carrier, or we’re going somewhere all day (or overnight) and need more stuff than we can easily carry while also carrying him, so we use a stroller.  I feel lucky that only a couple of people have given us a hard time about this (one woman yelled at me as I was getting on a (not at all crowded) bus that “those things” are illegal, which is blatantly not true).

Usually, the opposite happens.  People smile, make funny faces, and generally engage with a baby in a way they wouldn’t be caught dead doing with an adult.  Especially in Boston, the general code of conduct is “pretend nobody else is there and you’re in your own little world.”  I don’t say this to be disparaging — I grew up here, and it’s what I’m used to and I totally admit to getting kind of weirded out when random strangers seem to really want to talk to you.  For years, I’ve known that there are a few exceptions to this rule:

1)  The weather is awful in some way and you’ve been waiting outside for a while

2) The bus/train is having major problems

3) You want to know if you just missed a bus or train

Those are pretty much the only things that people won’t look at you oddly for starting a conversation about — hey, everyone loves to kvetch about the T and the weather, right?  Turns out, there is a fourth topic on that list:  babies.  I’ve had so many people start gushing about their own kids and how fast these early years go by, or what their grandkids are up to, or comparing notes on strollers, carriers, or other baby gear.  It’s amazing, and you meet some really nice people.  Some people speak just enough English to say “cute baby” but then they spend the rest of the bus ride playing peek-a-boo.  It’s an amazing way to really restore your faith in humanity, ride the bus with a baby.

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