Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Smilers & Judgers

Mrs. Blackwell and I did something we haven't done in a month Sunday evening; we went out for dinner. 

For a change of pace, we brought along our four-week old son. He's been spending too much time alone lately, so we felt it best to pry him away from his solitude and get him a proper meal. So, we went to a small Thai restaurant and enjoyed this family first. 

Mrs. Blackwell got a sensibly-sized bowl of noodle soup of some kind, while I got the "spicy noodles piled to an unsafe height" plate. Meanwhile, junior slept in his portable car seat next to his mom. 

He didn't cry, fuss or otherwise make a scene necessitating our hasty, sheepish retreat. Nope, he was perfect, which is to say, perfectly quiet. 

We took our time and enjoyed our meal. As we gathered our things I noticed how many of the patrons grinned at the sight of our little guy nestled in his car seat. We've seen this a lot. People see a baby carrier of some kind and they smile. 

But, there's always one. Isnt' there?

This is one of the bonuses of having a baby. Complete strangers just smile at you. I like to think this is some unspoken, universal proof that babies are inherently joyous and people are instinctively moved to smile in their presence. 

But, it could just as easily be strangers conveying overwhelming sympathy for us new parents and how ill-prepared we are, which moves them to form a smile that later turns to tears. 

Or maybe it's a smile that means "Better you than me buddy." Either way, it looks nice. 

I thought about this as the three of us drove home and made  a stop for ice cream. While the three of us stood in line, folks walked by, looked at the car seat and smiled. 

As we picked out a table, I raised up the car seat, with my son still in it, and realized it probably wasn't going to fit there. After a split second of trying to squeeze the seat in, I gave up and set it next to Mrs. Blackwell. 

It was then that I noticed that I was on the recieving end of a look from a stranger that most certainly wasn't a smile. Nearby, an older lady seated across from an older man, had apparently noticed the car seat in my hands and really not liked something. She glared at me like something had crawled up in her mouth and died    and I was the one who directed it there. 

From the timing of the sequences I can only speculate that this lady didn't like the way I'd tried to fenagle my son and his car seat into a seat. 

Upon noticing her look my reflex was to rhetorically ask her if there was something wrong. Having learned the perils of provoking the elderly from my grandfather,  I reconsidered. 

Fortunately, junior replied with a dirty look of his own. 
That said, I learned then and there that few barbs sting with such acuity as the insinuation that you're not a good parent. So, naturally my immature mind began racing for a thousand ways to put this judgmental old coot in her place.

I could drive a few blocks home, drop off the kid and the wife, glue the empty car seat to the roof of my car and then zoom past the front windows of the ice cream shop. I'd laugh maniacally, slam the brakes hard and then hit the gas and, in general give the appearance of a mad man. 

Maybe I could take the car seat into the bathroom at the ice cream shop, tuck my son into my shirt and then walk out without the car seat.

"What do you mean I forgot something in the bathroom?" 

"Baby? I didn't have a baby with me. I'm sorry ma'am, you must be seeing things. Perhaps you forgot to take whatever medication it is that you're most certainly on." 

Yep, way to go "Dad." You really showed that complete stranger how wrong she was about you. You're a fine father and a real gentleman to boot.

Lesson learned: under no circumstances does one sour face outweigh hundreds of smiles. 

Editor's Note: It's been our goal to use Master Blackwell's image and likeness infrequently. But, given his demonstrative affect, this has been difficult. Here, we resolve again to find new avenues for appropriate artwork for this space.

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