I was on the bus the other day with my son and a woman standing next to me pinched his cheek. He didn't like it. When she leaned over to do it again I looked at her and said: 'Please don't do it again. He doesn't like it'. I got 'the look' from most people who heard what I said...
Imagine, though, that it is a slightly different scenario: I was on the bus the other day with my husband and a woman standing next to me pinched his cheek. He didn't like it... I find it hard to even finish the story without it sounding ridiculous in my head.
I started wondering why is it that some people feel free to do things to babies they would not dream of doing to ... other people? It is probably especially visible with regards to strangers - I don't think anyone would ever stroke, touch, poke, pinch (the list goes on) another person on the bus. Unless that person is a baby. Why is it then? Is a baby not a person?
This goes along with all the thoughts on interrupting babies (see Janet's, Nadine's) - I don't think anyone would want to (seriously!) interrupt me while I'm trying to work something out, but I constantly see people picking up babies, who are clearly in the middle of something, without a word of warning leaving them with their mouth wide open... this also goes along with all the thoughts on talking and informing your child on what you're doing - I can't imagine anyone getting up and leaving a room full of people looking at him without a word (how rude would that be), but we constantly do it to babies and wonder why they're upset...
I think this goes along with having our world clearly divided into 'children' and 'people'. And I think I finally understand what Janusz Korczak might have meant when he said: "There are no children; there are people' (although I'm sure he meant much much more that just that).
So when do we start treating children as people? When they start walking? Talking? Go to school? Leave the house? When we need their help?
In our road through parenting so far I think what has helped us immensely in treating our son with the respect he deserves as a person, was to always ask ourselves: would I do it to another adult? And yes, children are not adults, they are different in more way than we can count. But they are also similar in more ways than we are normally aware of.
This might be a bit more thinking than a simple pinch on the cheek should get, but I have found that respecting a baby is often not the most natural thing to do. And respect is most definitely something we all deserve.