“Where’s his mum then?”
I must admit I was startled by the voice, seemingly from nowhere. It’s one of the (many) problems of being my height (I’m 6 foot 5), very small people don’t feature on my peripheral vision. For a moment, I thought I was hearing voices. They say that happens, don’t they – overtired people have hallucinations? They’ve always sounded like fun to me, in the abstract at least. I quite fancy spending an afternoon talking to Shergar or being one of those daring men on a flying trapeze.
But I digress.
I wasn’t hearing things, I was hearing someone – a middle aged lady to be exact, keen to interact with me and Sam my son. She was tiny, almost professionally so – hence my confusion.
“Sorry?” I replied, woken from my day dream of flying through the air in a Big Top.
“His mum?” the lady looked around expectantly. “Where is she?”
“She’s at home, working.”
She gave me a look of “Oh you poor dear” and then stuck a grubby finger in Sam’s unsuspecting mouth.
“Please don’t do that,” I said, trying to control my temper.
“He’s fine,” she said, dismissively.
Whether Sam was fine, or not, was hardly the point – although I was simultaneously trying to remember if there was a way of disinfecting a baby’s mouth.
“See… he likes it.”
Sam also likes to throw all of his weight in the opposite direction when he’s being carried, meaning you have to lunge to ensure he doesn’t fall. My point is, just because Sam likes something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for him. In fact, as a 7 month old baby, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not concepts he’s familiar with.
As politely as I could, I disengaged her finger from Sam’s mouth and attempted to carry on with the shopping. She didn’t take the hint.
“That face, he’s pulling right now, that means he’s tired.”
That made 2 of us.
She made a little clucking sound and shook her head.
“I mean what you’re doing taking him out when he’s tired is beyond me. Men…”
Here is the crux of the matter. For some reason, that I am yet to figure out, some people think it’s perfectly acceptable to come over and interfere when a dad is out with their baby. It drives me mad. It really does.
“Got to go.”
“What are you feeding him on?” she continued.
Before I’d removed myself she’d grabbed a can of baby food from my basket.
“He won’t like this,” she said, eyeing up the Chicken noodle mush.
Sam does like it. He eats it like it’s going out of fashion. I took another jar from the shelf and walked away.
“Some people are just rude,” she said, as I left.
I couldn’t agree more.
Unsolicited advice, has it ever been well received? I mean, ever? Why, as a father, am I destined to be the recipient of it, by the bucket-load? Perhaps it’s a generational thing?We really need to get over the idea that a dad, on his own with his child, is providing inferior care – so poor indeed that a complete stranger, who happens to be in the possession of a second ‘X’ chromosome, could do a better job.
I’m aware that I may sound like I’m ranting. Mainly because I am. But really, when you’re tired, it’s the last thing you want. I fumed about it for hours, while Sam on the other hand, was happily napping in minutes. The lady was right, he was tired and today so am I.
Back to Shergar and the trapeze.
The Out of Depth Dad