(Originally posted 9/5/2008, 1:48 a.m.)
[This title was inspired by the Canadian drama, “Seeing Things” of the early 80s, which had a pretty catchy tune: “I’m seeing things/slings, believe me, I’ve never seen before . . . “]
Out and about in the big city the other day with the kids, I saw two moms toting their babes in one of my slings, which of course, made me very proud. True, being the “natural parenting” type that I am, and hanging out in the sub-groups that I do, I probably run into slinging parents & babes more than the average person. I quietly observed to see how the babies were being carried, and how happy or unhappy they seemed.
I always get a feeling of pride and happiness, obviously, whenever I see one of my slings on a mom whom I don’t know. This is especially so when I see a limited-edition print from years back, because it means that that’s a sling that’s been used and loved for a long time, and being passed on to the next baby. It’s one thing for me to see some of my friends slinging their little ones in one of my creations, but to know that I could randomly walk out into the world and bump into someone who’s using one of my products, and enjoying it, and having such happy babies, is well . . . heartwarming.
Friends usually ask if I approach the parent and tell them that I’m the creator of the sling that they’re wearing. The answer is no, I don’t, for several reasons. One, I always assume that every parent likes to go about their day with a certain sense of privacy. Just as I don’t comment to parents who are not slinging, I don’t go out of my way to say hello to those who are. I’ll give a smile, as if we share something in common, but I don’t go up to introduce myself, or even to say, “Hey, great sling you’re wearing!” (Beloved Husband, on the other hand, is the complete opposite; he’ll go up to anybody slinging, and say something like, “I love your sling. Your baby seems really happy.” Then before you know it, he’s given them one of my business cards, and has made a new friend. He’s the social butterfly of this couple.) A second reason why I don’t go say hello is that I don’t assume that everyone wearing one of my slings would want to meet me. I’m not a celebrity; I merely designed and sold them a product that they possibly enjoy.
But perhaps the most important reason why I don’t approach my slingers: I’m never sure what kind of a response I’ll get about the sling. Parents could very well say, “Yeah, this has been a lifesaver; we couldn’t have lived without it!” But what happens if they say half-heartedly, “Yeah, it’s okay. But I wouldn’t buy another one like it”? Then my balloon would be completely deflated. Worse still, if that’s my regular hang-out, then I’d have the awkwardness of potential future run-ins with that unsatisfied parent.
So no thanks, I can live without knowing. I guess despite the hundreds of glowing e-mails and words of testimonials over the years, I’m still not as confident as I can be. That’s the funny thing about the slinging business, or the business of selling any baby or parenting product that is so skewed towards one very particular way of thinking: You’ll either convert someone for life, and have a legion of grateful and devoted followers. Or you’ll alienate a bunch of people who will decide that they don’t want to face you, for fear of either party being uncomfortable.
So if I happen to see you one day with one of my slings on, I’ll be the one looking shyly over and possibly smiling. I won’t approach you, but if you recognise me and feel like saying hi, I’d love that. And even if you don’t have positive words, but still want to say something, I can handle that too.