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Why do strangers touch other people's kids??

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

This happened when DS was a baby. He is blond and blue-eyed and was a strikingly beautiful baby in a town where the majority population is more ethnically diverse. I was surprised at how many people felt the need to touch his head as they went past, but figured it was his beautiful blond hair.

 

Then we started doing foster care. We had a little boy who was a different race and again, I noticed that  strangers would touch his head. He also has beautiful hair, and is pretty darn cute, but isn't particularly exotic-looking for the demographic here.

 

Today, we had yet another foster child with us, of yet another race. Some guy walked past us as we were eating and said, "He looks like a good eater" and touched his head.

 

These are not always older people, like grandparent types. The guy today was younger than I am, a big tough guy in a football jersey.

 

Is this a cultural thing that I'm not aware of? Religious? Or just a different type of community than I'm used to? (I grew up on the East Coast -- we don't touch ANYBODY where I come from!)


Edited by swd12422 - 2/17/13 at 2:51pm
post #2 of 31
Good question. I am also from the East Coast but haven't lived there in years. I have three redheads; dh and I are not. Their heads were touched as recently as December and they are 14, 16 and 18. Not even particularly cute anymore!
post #3 of 31

I am also from the East Coast, the NYC metro area, and we (my family) touch everyone, all the time.  I am not particularly bothered by friendly strangers touching my Little Miss.  I trust my instincts regarding other humans.  When I've been wary of someone, I move away and avoid them so they cannot put their hands on her.  Otherwise, touch away.  Heck, I've handed her to a clerk at my local supermarket.

When she was very young, six months or under, people did not try to touch her, which was probably best.  I would never think to touch a newborn or young baby.  I've touched older children, children that are sitting up and engaging you in some manner.  I've never noticed another mother seeming terribly concerned that I was interacting and perhaps touching her older baby or child.

In fact, the only negative encounter with someone touching my child I can recall was when she was quite young, and was wrapped to my chest while my husband and I were in a home warehouse, and a man, who clearly didn't understand boundaries, approached us to ooooh and ahhhh, and touched both her and me.  Frankly, I was irritated and wanted to back away, but couldn't because my husband was reaching around me, and at that point, I was more worried about my husband than the stranger.  My husband was, and I say this as understatement, not amused.

post #4 of 31

I have become very pro-touching as long as the child is comfortable. I grew up in the Northeast, but now live in the South and spend a lot of time with African-American children these days (my kids attend a majority-minority school). Hugging is desired and expected. The staff is explicitly allowed and encouraged to accept hugs. And while I was taught in my college years that it was very rude for white folks to "pet" Black folks i.e. touch their hair, I end up touching everybody's head all the time because that seems to be OK in this place, for this age group. 

post #5 of 31

Hmm... I live in New Zealand, which isn't at all a touchy-feely place; but I notice strangers touch my (cute, but non-exotic) baby fairly often. When he was littler, people would grab a foot, stroke his leg or chuck his cheek when he was in the supermarket trolley seat thing. Now he's 19 months and has awesome corkscrew curls, so people mostly pat him on the head or "froof" his curls out. I think he gets the odd cheek-chucking, still.

 

I put it down to "babies are cute and squishable". If I see a cute baby, I tend to want to squish it - I generally don't, because I'm afraid its mother might be worried about germs or otherwise disapproving. But if someone I know hands me a baby, you bet I'll give it a good squooshing. I mean, they're babies! They're made of squish! Does there need to be a better explanation?

post #6 of 31
I'm in Australia, also not a very touchy place. I don't find that our toddler gets touched very often (photographed, yes. We have lots of Japanese and Chinese tourists and she is blonde and blue-eyed) but our three month old gets stroked occasionally. Usually in the supermarket and usually by grandmotherly sort of women. I always have her in the Beco when we're out so it's usually her leg/foot as its the only bit of her they can get to without, essentially, delving into my cleavage. And most Australians are slightly more circumspect than that lol.gif

It doesn't bother me. So far, every person who has commented or touched has been sweet and complimentary. One of real and completely unexpected joys of having children for me has been observing the softening of strangers faces when they look at a tiny person. The most unexpected people will look at my babies and their faces will change. It's a lovely statement about humanity.
post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 

I agree... It's great to see the looks on people's faces change. The kids I'm posting about in my OP are NOT babies. Well, they're "babies" but not sweet little infants. I'm talking 4 year olds who strike terror in the hearts of shop owners when we walk in. (They are very well-behaved, but it's the age group...)

 

It doesn't bother me. It is sweet. And everyone so far has done it only gently and kindly. But to me, it's a foreign practice. NO ONE EVER did this where I used to live, as far as I saw. I wasn't raised to do it to strangers' babies -- we'd coo, and ooh and aah, and maybe ask if we could hold a baby, but never just walk past and stroke the heads of strange kids without a word to the parents. I was taught that it's not polite to do things like that. And yet, it doesn't feel rude to me. It feels like community. 

post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

 One of real and completely unexpected joys of having children for me has been observing the softening of strangers faces when they look at a tiny person. The most unexpected people will look at my babies and their faces will change. It's a lovely statement about humanity.

 

 

Oh yes!  Out here we have plenty of Grandmas and Abuelitas to pinch and pat Little Miss, put the real sweet surprise is when someone who really could pass for the Marlboro Man, but at 80, just beams at her.  Those are the same older gents that would compliment the sling or the wrap when I wore her.  It struck me how older men seemed to always recognize what a good idea wearing a small baby was.

post #9 of 31

Well here we are very touchy,... So yes I would touch a cute baby when I see it and I know the motehr will not mind and I also dont mind when people touch my kids 

post #10 of 31
When I lived in Okinawa, people touched my kids, especially my eldest when she was a toddler. She had Shirley Temple hair, and even older kids (like 8 year old Japanese boys) touched her head all the time.

They used to touch dd2's face and say, "small face! Small face" in Japanese. (She did have a tiny face) I once had a random older Japanese woman just take her out of my arms and bring her over to her own table at a restaurant. They love kids. I just used the opportunity to sit and eat my meal.

My older two kids are dark haired and dark eyed. I had friends with kids who had blond/red hair and light eyes, forget about it, those kids are getting handled. I had a red headed adult aquaintace tell me once that she sometimes got petted by Japanese people.

On mainland, they were more reserved, but the kids still got lots of attention, especially the baby.

Babies are cute! Who doesn't want to cuddle one!?
post #11 of 31
Quote:
I once had a random older Japanese woman just take her out of my arms and bring her over to her own table at a restaurant. They love kids. I just used the opportunity to sit and eat my meal.

lol.gif Ah, the pragmatism of a mother of two.

 

I got "stolen" twice as a baby - I was curly-blonde, blue-eyed and cuter than I am ever likely to be again. :p Both on the same trip, actually - I was 5 months, and my parents were travelling back from the USA to Australia with three preschoolers in tow. Once at a restaurant in Fiji - the staff whisked me away to the kitchen and returned me at the end of the meal. Then when Mum and Dad were struggling with children and luggage at the airport, an American couple turned up and said "Here, I'll help", grabbed me in my carseat and disappeared! They gave me back later on during the flight, but it was somewhat stressful for Mum and Dad, who weren't sure if I'd been kidnapped. (Although apparently, not worried enough to raise the alarm... heh. Thanks, parents.)

 

I remember when I first had DD, being amazed at how much the general populace likes babies. It felt like being a celebrity - every time I went out, people were cooing and smiling and patting her. When she was a bit bigger, just old enough to walk, I once had to walk the gauntlet of about sixty teenage schoolgirls on our way to the toy library. It made me nervous - teenage girls intimidate me - but as we trotted along they all started cooing and awwwwing, trying to give her bits of their lunch, and basically transforming from cynical teens into gooey balls of estrogen. It was awesome!

post #12 of 31

I think its because babies are cute. Also, white people are as ethnic as anyone else. 

post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 

Babies are cute. Little kids are cute, but no one really oohs over a 4 year old like they would a 4 month old. And I'm talking about it being older kids that people are touching. I never saw that while I was growing up. And thanks for pointing out my error -- corrected in the OP to say what I meant.

post #14 of 31

I didn't know what age you were talking about and I don't know what section of the country you are in, but it does happen in my area (the north east).

 

Strangers do touch my 5 year old- sometimes they will touch is head (like in tousle his hair), it's also not uncommon to do a high-five, or a fist bump - often in the context of a small exchange, as in leaving.  I don't see this a new it been going on for years. Stranger do talk to you when out and often do touch you. I have had older (mostly women) even touch my arm when talking, I have had strangers touch jewelry I was wearing (neckless and pins). Men often shake hands with stranger, so I don't see it as odd to touch a child after real small talk. Shaking hands is starting now for my DS as well.  I have seen strangers touch young girls ears to comment on earrings. 

 

A woman at a art museum today touched my DS's shoulder when she walked away from us, it was intentional and he was seated at the time- it does happen. 

post #15 of 31
Thread Starter 

Yeah, what you're describing isn't that unusual to me, and hair-tousling or a pat on the shoulder are things I probably wouldn't notice much (although I stopped wearing jewelry b/c I hated seeing people's hands coming at me to get a closer look at something I was wearing....). I'm talking about young/middle-aged men (and some older too) who practically caress a boy's head. Not a little baby, a 3/4/5 year old who is walking/sitting on his own next to me. The first time it happened to my son, I thought it was b/c he is all blond/blue eyed in the midst of a more heavily Latino community, kind of what PPs are describing their experiences were in Asia. A blonde is a novelty in places where most everyone has dark hair and eyes. But then a random guy treated one FS like he was his uncle or something. First he touched his head, so gently it was like he was blessing him, then practically tried to keep him with him (he was a vendor at a farmers market). Then the other day my other FS was sitting next to me at the mall, and a young guy walked past behind us and did the same thing, caressing his hair like a blessing, or like he just wanted to see what it felt like. But again, it wasn't a tentative thing, it was like he knew and loved the kid.

 

Okay, so maybe it's just me and the uptight family I was raised in!

post #16 of 31
I probably sent out "don't touch" vibes, because my son wasn't touched. I had *many* people tell me how cute he was, and that I should put him into commercials, but they didn't touch him. Although I had one woman in the supermarket ask if she could hold him. I said, "No." A friend of hers then explained that it's not appropriate to hold a stranger's baby, and that was the end of it.
post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

Hmm... I live in New Zealand, which isn't at all a touchy-feely place; but I notice strangers touch my (cute, but non-exotic) baby fairly often. When he was littler, people would grab a foot, stroke his leg or chuck his cheek when he was in the supermarket trolley seat thing. Now he's 19 months and has awesome corkscrew curls, so people mostly pat him on the head or "froof" his curls out. I think he gets the odd cheek-chucking, still.

 

I put it down to "babies are cute and squishable". If I see a cute baby, I tend to want to squish it - I generally don't, because I'm afraid its mother might be worried about germs or otherwise disapproving. But if someone I know hands me a baby, you bet I'll give it a good squooshing. I mean, they're babies! They're made of squish! Does there need to be a better explanation?



I grew up on the East Coast, and when I would watch my nephew when he was a baby people would approach us all the time. If they seemed non-threatening I generally wouldn't think about it twice, I can certainly understand baby fever. There was an occasion where I had to ask a woman to back off because she almost took him out of his stroller without even asking me!

post #18 of 31
Babies/kids are cute and some people have a hard time resisting touching. I much prefer if people ask me or the child (depending on age, obviously you ask the parent if it is a baby) and I extend others the same courtesy and am teaching DD to do the same (she's 3, so still learning). What is deemed acceptable definitely varies by locale though, but personally I think it is rude to touch without asking, though it is something I'm working on myself still so I am very understanding when people do it, especially with a baby if they at least touch feet/head and not hands/face for germ-reasons smile.gif
post #19 of 31

yeah i think its a cultural thing. we live in a v. diverse city so dd got touched all the time. it seems here that cultures seeps through others. so it isnt just one cultural group but kinda a general thing. 

 

for our family it worked out great. dd needs touch. even from strangers. as a baby she used to lunge out to touch people. we've never been 'grossed' out by anyone's touch. its either been blessing or squish factor. 

 

i think touch is huge for many of us. i know i enjoy the touch of others. i mean imagine if you didnt have a child or partner you'd never be touched. i know some older folks who enjoy a haircut because they feel others hands on them. that was so sad when i first heard that.

 

we take dd and her friends to the park quite often. i watch how they walk screaming and sharing and laughin. there is no space for air between them. 

post #20 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana731 View Post
I once had a random older Japanese woman just take her out of my arms and bring her over to her own table at a restaurant. They love kids. I just used the opportunity to sit and eat my meal.
 

 

I also have a blond hair, blue eyed child.  When he was just a few weeks old, the waitress at our local Japanesse restaurant (we were regulars) scooped him right out of his carrier and carried him off without asking me.  It took every ounce of self-control I had not to freak out.  Culturally, I knew she thought it was ok but it grated me to the core.  I noticed when travelling in Mexico and Caribbean, women (and some men) were physically affectionate towards DS in a way that would never happen in the NE.

 

Even though we are a touchy-feely family, I never got over strangers trying to or succeeding in touching him.  Yet, I find myself having to really resist the urge to touch strangers babies!  I caulk it up to a deeply ingrained human urge to want to love babies.

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