He’s a Baby, Not an Accessory

Photo: Jacqueline Hunkele

*Ring, ring*


Hi, it’s me. Just wanted to see if you’re coming on Saturday.


Fantastic. Can’t wait to see the three of you.

Um, it’s just the two of us.

What? You’re not bringing The Baby? Why not?

Because it just wouldn’t be appropriate given the event and location.

But, I don’t mind. It’s O.K. with me.

Yeah, but it’s not just you I’m worried about.

I’ve had this conversation multiple times. Usually it involves an event taking place in public. By "public", I mean any location that isn’t in my house: restaurants, the zoo, even houses of worship. Everyone wants my husband and me to bring "The Baby". Sure, he’s cute so everyone wants to see him, but I just can’t believe that these people seem to have such little respect for the other people that are affected by the times we do choose to bring him.

I find myself wondering, when did it become socially acceptable — expected, in fact — to bring babies everywhere and to everything? I must have missed the start of this trend, Baby as Necessary Accessory, but now that I’m Mom, I see it everywhere. I don’t remember Mom and Dad dragging me to many places when I was young. And, I include the grocery store in that statement. I remember plenty of times with baby sitters because it was "grown-ups only". In one case, my brother and I were tucked into a back bedroom with the T.V. all night because it wasn’t appropriate for us to be at the grown-up event taking place in the living room. We didn’t go everywhere with Mom and Dad because they wanted time off from parent duties and I wasn’t a sleek new pair of shoes Mom wanted to show to her friends. I needed things like playtime and sleep — not another hour at the party because Aunt Annoying didn’t get to pinch my cheeks yet.

The times we do bring him we often get The Look: Those people are crazy for bringing a baby (O.K., toddler, really) Here. And, the Lookers are usually right. I probably shouldn’t bring him Here. People have a right to enjoy their meal or book or even to shop in relative peace. It isn’t fair to subject them to the loud and unintelligible ramblings of a fourteen month old that does not have the capacity to use his inside voice. I can’t let him roam around because he wants to practice walking, “Now!” It’s even worse if the outing interferes with naptime or he’s cranky. It’s unfair to expect him to control himself at this age and even more unfair to expect those around him to "grin and bear it".

But those who insist we bring our son to everything just don’t get it. I’m not sure which I’m more upset about: the fact that they don’t respect our choice to not drag The Baby everywhere, or the fact that they think it’s O.K. to disrespect the community at large. Though I am a parent and probably more tolerant of a child’s screams, there are times when I don’t want to hear it. For example, at a wedding. It’s a joyous event, full of celebration and happiness. But the ceremony is a pretty serious event, and even though anyone sitting more than two rows back usually can’t hear what’s being said at the altar, it is relatively quiet during the ceremony. It’s hard for anyone to enjoy, “I Rachel take thee…” when it’s punctuated by a baby’s outburst. Sure, one could argue that the baby is happy and celebrating with the couple, but is that really what they want on their wedding video? I know I don’t want to make that decision for them.

Yet, when I make the choice not to bring my child to things like this — no matter what the reason — I get incredulous responses. “You’re not bringing him? But he just has to be there. I’ll be so disappointed. Everyone else does it.” So that makes it O.K.? Since I’m a Mother now, I take great joy in asking, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would that make it O.K.? Should I jump off the bridge too? Would you?” Generally, this is countered with, “But I don’t mind.” Fantastic, but there are 189 other people in attendance that might mind, and I’m not willing to take the chance that they will. It’s bad enough I get The Look when he starts throwing food everywhere but do I really want to compound it when he starts making noise at just the wrong moment?

I’ve explained that, frankly, I get so few nights out as a Grown-Up without being Mommy, I don’t want to deal with the responsibility and would just rather hire a sitter to deal with my son for the night so I can enjoy myself. Of course, that’s an expensive proposition, so, if you don’t mind doing it at the event, I’m fine with it. I have yet to find a taker for that. I’m sure it’s due to the fact that they would like to enjoy themselves as well, but I have a suspicion that they don’t want to be the ones to endure The Look.

I suppose I’m in the minority on this subject, since I see it more and more, but I’m not sure that makes it right. I see more and more fighting in the Middle East, but that doesn’t make it right, either. More importantly, I am O.K. choosing not to drag The Baby to places he doesn’t belong, and I wish more people would be O.K. with that as well. He’s not the latest purse, he’s a child, and should be treated as such. Does that mean never taking him anywhere? No. But it does mean being aware of where he can and cannot be and respecting the rights of others to enjoy their “child-free time” whatever and wherever that may be. If I have an overwhelming urge to show off an accessory, I’ll bring my new purse.