Distracted By Kids

by admin on June 13, 2013

I need help dealing with a situation I have with a very good friend. It’s kind of awkward, and I’m not sure if it is just me being a jerk, or if other people find this behavior annoying… and I really need help with how I should handle this. Beth is the nicest person; she is kind, friendly, thoughtful and overall just a nice sensitive person. Like everyone, she is not superhuman, she has her moods, but she really cares about other people and worries about their feelings. She has this thing she does that makes me really uncomfortable and I just don’t know how to deal with it.

Today we went shopping and to lunch. While shopping, she was her normal chatty self, smiling and engaging all of the salespeople in the stores (and I mean all of them – she is hilariously over-the-top friendly, which is one thing we seemed to have in common – we will talk to anyone anywhere) and now and then I would tell her I was moving on to the next store while she continued her conversation. She’s fun, but a little more chatty than I am, so I am happy to let her go to town and she is cool with me leaving her.

So now we go to lunch and she does this really annoying thing. Every time someone walks by with a kid she has to turn, look, and say something (“Oh, isn’t he cute!” “Look at that adorable hair”, “Look at the widdle baby” – in a baby voice no less). It’s a constant distraction. And she always tries to get the kids or the parents to talk to her. She did want children of her own and was not successful conceiving, so I feel kind of bad about getting so peeved…but it really, really annoys the heck out of me. I just don’t appreciate her turning away when we are in mid-conversation to tell me the kid at the next table is a cutie-pie. I am around enough kids that they are not novel to me at all – I really like playing with little kids (and I have the sense of humor of a six-year-old), but I kind of keep the kid love focused on my nieces and my close friends’ kids. I feel weird in public pestering parents and kids with uninitiated conversations, and I don’t understand why people think if you are pushing a baby stroller you are just dying to talk to everyone who passes about wonderful your child is. I just think back to when my friend Maddy’s kids were born how she would get annoyed when strangers would start fawning all over them when she was running to the store on a quick errand. She used to joke around a bit that she would steer her cart away from older women in supermarkets because grandparents were, in her opinion, the absolute worst to try to disengage from. (So sorry if you find this offensive, I am just trying to show where I am coming from and what I’ve heard from relatives and friends.)

So should I approach her and tell her she is a pain in the ass to me and to many, many others; or do I just let her go? Am I completely wrong; most people actually like it when strangers start talking to their kids in a restaurant, and most people love to discuss every child they see? Would it be rude if I asked her that she not to bother alerting me to the presence of every said child? Am I awful for losing my patience over this?

I don’t have kids. I think my friends and family with kids may be a little more jaded than Beth, so I am looking for an outside general consensus. I really need some opinions here. I’m leaning towards making a joke about it next time it happens, but I don’t know if I could pull that off without hurting her feelings.

Thanks for the help. 0605-13

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

MichelleP June 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

@Saucygirl, if you will read my post I clearly state that I agree with Lex that strangers shouldn’t touch pregnant women or anyone else, and I don’t blame her for not wanting it. I stand by that she needs help when she describes being “genuinely confused by anyone interacting with parents and children” and is “terrified by the idea of a stranger touching her” and “the idea of strangers engaging her in conversation is terrifying” and she suffers from “agitated depression”. She needs help. As a nurse and a mother, if just the idea of people talking to her makes her panic I cannot imagine how she will handle the stress of child rearing. Maybe I’m off base, but I’m genuinely concerned. If she is offended or I’m totally off base, she can address that to me.

We’ve gotten off the subject and I’m not arguing or justifying my opinions any longer. If people don’t want to talk to others, that is their right. I stand by that there is nothing wrong with anyone sincerely complimenting a beautiful child. If you don’t want to stay and talk, end the conversation.

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Angeldrac June 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I have to say I HATED people constantly trying to chat to my child, especially when they touched him (no touchies!!!!), but then I realized just how many stories were coming out of these people – “I had I ovarian cancer, so I could never have children”, ” I always wanted a baby, but I never found the right guy”, “my little baby never made it – you just enjoy him all you can!”. Heartbroken people with a hole in their lives they couldn’t fill! It really didn’t make my life any worse to let them talk to my baby for a few seconds. And though I agree with many people here that your friend is being rude by constantly leaving your conversation, I think, maybe, can you stretch your patience with her just to cover this area? Not all the time, but just a bit?

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Lex June 17, 2013 at 5:26 am

LOL. You think I need counselling. What makes you think I haven’t had therapy?

I’m a very shy person and don’t cope well in unwanted situations with Strangers. I have coping mechanisms I employ to deal with everyday interactions – shop assistants, people in supermarkets etc – I’m very polite and formal. If someone is in my way they get ‘Excuse me please’. But outside of this I don’t cope well – someone reversed into me in a car park and I ended up having a panic attack trying to convince her (she had a broken leg for crying out loud) that she’d hit me in the first place. I don’t cope well and as such am largely Agoraphobic. I rarely venture out of the house unaccompanied by LeBoyfriend as he is considerably better at handling these situations than I am. I DO have an illness and it IS being treated. Sometimes it is worse than others.

I think you have misunderstood the context of my post. My illness is not going to go away. The best I can do is develop coping mechanisms and largely these serve me well and I HAVE had therapy and am on medication.

My point is that I like to keep myself to myself. I don’t bother others and would like it if they didn’t bother me. I have that right. I have a RIGHT to expect people to respect my privacy and boundaries as I respect the privacy and boundaries of others, and as I have this mindset, I genuinely cannot understand the mindset or thinking of those that don’t. I can’t understand how anyone thinks it is appropriate to just accost a random stranger in the street just because they have a child, and I have SEEN people groping pregnant women and I don’t understand how they can have the nerve to touch someone they don’t know so intimately.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having that mindset as I respect the privacy and rights of others. I ignore babies and children unless directly engaged (usually by the child talking to me) and unless I know the mother, her life and her children are of no consequence or interest to me so I keep my nose out of her business.

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Miss-E June 17, 2013 at 9:49 am

@Saucygirl: I work in a grocery store in an affluent neighborhood that is frequented by the elderly and yoga moms (ie: the kind of people who can kill two hours in a grocery store and not have it affect their schedule), I know how annoying it can be to be constantly drawn into an unwanted conversation when you are otherwise occupied. All I’m saying is that there is a ring of annoyance to many of these comments that I find a little sad. When I said “small talk” in the second comment I meant the smallest kind of talk: “oh he’s cute! how old?” “oh thanks, he’s six months”; end of conversation. I’m not talking a twenty minute chat about breastfeeding and I certainly agree that it’s inappropriate to buy someone else’s child candy or toys or to touch a pregnant woman without asking. I just always thought people take pride in their kids and would appreciate someone admiring them. I didn’t realize until reading these comments that telling someone their kid is cute was some great burden.

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--Lia June 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

Lex– Lo has the right idea, but I’d get to the point a little faster. Rather than saying “I’d appreciate it if …” or “Please …” make it easier on people by being more direct. The minute a stranger makes a move to touch your belly (or anywhere else), take a step back while saying “DON’T TOUCH ME.” If the stranger says something like “I just wanted to … ” or “but you’re so …” repeat “DON’T TOUCH ME” while giving the death stare. Don’t for a second think that this is rude. You’re doing the polite thing by being clear about your boundaries. Then, if the stranger chooses to start actual polite conversation that doesn’t involve asking a bunch of nosy questions, you may choose to answer.

For random strangers engaging in conversation about your children, here’s the trick: You broaden the conversation to include all children. So if the stranger asks something specific about your baby, you say “yes, babies sure can be a handful” or “yes, babies sure are cute when they’re little.” You don’t have to answer anything about your baby including how old he is (“yes, babies sure do grow fast), or whether you’re breastfeeding (“yes, it sure is important to feed babies”), or anything else. If you don’t choose to interact with the overly friendly stranger, you go with the smile and nod. The stranger says “what a cute baby,” and you make eye contact, smile and nod. The stranger asks you point blank something about feeding or pooping or the birth or anything else, and you smile, make eye contact, and nod. Repeat as necessary. They’ll eventually go away.

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another Laura June 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm

@lex -maybe you could have a maternity T-shirt made (or a whole bunch of them) that say “if you didn’t put it there, don’t touch it!” :-)
I don’t mind a quick complement of my children in passing, but they only have a fuse of about 30
minutes for errands, after that they begin meltdown stage, so a few “small talks” and we can’t buy groceries without everyone in the store thinking we are terrible parents with unruly children.

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