Yesterday Baby Leone, Etani, and I walked two miles to pick up Athena from school. The stepmother of one of Athena’s classmates was there, so I got to see her son, who was born three days after Leone, for the first time.
The babies smiled at each other.
“How much does she weigh?” The mom asked me.
“I don’t know,” I began. “We don’t–”
“She’s so tiny,” she interrupted.
“Well, maybe she just looks puny compared to MY baby,” she said. “He weighs fifteen pounds!”
Of all the adjectives I would use to describe Leone, “puny” isn’t one of them. She’s like a sumo wrestler with so many chins you can’t see her neck. She has chubby thighs and a Buddha belly. I don’t get it. Was it because she had a boy that this mom was sure her son was bigger than my daughter? The most bizarre part is that we weighed Leone at the Y a few weeks ago and she was fifteen pounds then so she probably actually weighs more now than the other mom’s baby.
“First time mom?” My friend Victoria, whose kids are 10 and 7, asked on the phone when I told her about it later that day. Etani was in the tub while Leone sat on my lap and watched him splash around. Athena was drawing, Hesperus at gymnastics.
“That explains it!” Victoria cried. “You say–and think–all sorts of crazy things when you’re a new mom! You know that as well as anybody.”
I remember coming out of a restaurant with Hesperus in Atlanta when she was just a few weeks old and bumping into a new mom with a baby around the same age. We started comparing height and length and percentiles, as breathless and oblivious to anything but our own babies as teenagers in love, and as fierce in our comparison as if we were talking dick size not head circumference. My dad rolled his eyes and moved away from us. With ten years of hindsight, I realize now that my dad must have been embarrassed by the meaninglessness of our conversation.
I’ve been at this long enough that the puny remark shouldn’t have got my hackles up. But it did. I thrust Leone into the other mom’s arms.
“Here,” I said. “Hold her. She’s pretty hefty.”
Leone immediately started to fuss. Athena took her. She quieted right down in her sister’s arms.
Why do you think new moms act competitive with each other? Have you ever inadvertently insulted another mom’s baby? How do you respond when people you barely know say hurtful things? Should I have responded differently? I’m really looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below.