Oh for Pete’s sake, just pick it up, already!

(Originally posted 10/12/2008, 9:55 p.m.)

I witnessed a couple of interesting parental reactions to BCIP (babies crying in public) this past weekend. Allow me to describe the scenarios, and you can form your own opinions:

#1: A parent and tot sing-along group, mid-afternoon, with about 20 people present. Young baby (maybe 6 months) starts screaming. Mom immediately picks baby up from the floor and starts walking with him in her arms, then changes him in a corner of the room, not leaving so that the baby and she can still enjoy the sing-along, as long as his crying is calmed.

#2: Swimming pool public viewing area, Saturday morning, with about a dozen adults present. Baby less than a year old sits in her stroller and babbles/screams/cries non-stop for about 15 minutes. Mom and Dad both have their eyes cast down on a newspaper, while strangers all around are looking at the baby, some smiling, some raising their eyebrows. The mom and dad react in the following manner (all without lifting their eyes from their newspaper):
Mom (not looking at baby): “Shh.”
Mom (2 minutes later, eyes still on paper): “Shh. No more.”
Dad (2 minutes later, making eye contact with baby): “Come on now, people are going to think you’re a loud girl.”
Mom (2 minutes later): “That’s enough now.”
Mom (2 minutes later): “Okay, that’s enough.” Gets up from the table and—no, you guessed wrong—she doesn’t pick up the baby, but walks off! (I later find out that she went away to make a cell phone call in quiet.)
Dad (a minute after Mom has left, still reading his paper): “Oh, aren’t you a loud girl, now?”

I’ve seen some version of Scene #2 fairly often. I can’t begin to tell you just how much it bothers me, not only because of my ringing ears, but to see/hear a baby so plainly in need of comfort, be ignored. I really want to refrain from making statements about who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to dealing with certain parental issues, and what I have done in the past with my BCIP, or would do. But I also wanted strongly to get this rant off my chest. How many of us have been a quietly-suffering stranger in Scene #2, surreptitiously putting a finger in one ear, not wanting to go tell the parent what to do, for fear of confrontation, possibly coming face-to-face with one of those angry parents who are going to tell us to mind our own business? (Because let’s face it, the type of parents who would ignore their screaming baby for 15 minutes and not make any kind of physical contact or attempt to soothe the baby, would be exactly the type to tell you to go shove it.)

Now, I need to emphasise that the point of this rant is not to push anything on you—not a baby carrier, not a book about parenting behaviour, not some kind of stroller-ejecting-baby-comforting-parent-substitute-device . . . . No, the point is to, like I said, get this off my chest, and state that if there’s one skill that I could wish on all parents, it would be the art of comforting a BCIP. And I wish that I had the courage to say, “C’mon parents, please pick up your screaming baby and soothe her. (And jiggling your stroller or shopping cart with your foot doesn’t count!) S/he is trying to tell you something, for crying out loud. Don’t make the rest of us suffer for your lackadaisical parenting.”


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