I was in the supermarket the other day, Whole Foods to be precise, and the woman ahead of me in the checkout line had a baby/toddler in her cart. The baby had reached the stage of complaining where it was making fairly continuous noise but not yet crying. Then the baby apparently saw its yogurt being checked through but not handed over, and went ahead and cried. I talked to the baby. The baby was pretty suspicious, ducking its head to the shopping cart handle and looking down so as not to catch my eyes. I remember that gesture. But I kept talking, in a sort of, hey baby, if you don’t want me to talk to you I get it, but I’ve been there with a crying baby in the supermarket, and I have an grown daughter now, and I know that all the spirit and intention you are showing now by crying is actually a trait to cherish and protect. The baby stopped crying. The mother (when she spoke it became apparent she was from a Northern European country, although since she was very blonde and six feet tall I might have guessed were I not focused on her baby) thanked me.
All of us who have survived the mounting terror as our baby starts to wail in a public place, a public place where we are stuck completing a task required for survival such as buying food, when we are sleep-deprived and hungry and thirsty from the demands of nursing, well, it’s our job to help mothers out in supermarkets. And on airplanes sometimes I want to walk over to mothers with crying babies and say, “You want me to walk her through the plane for a while?” But I don’t for fear they will think, even though we are on an enclosed airplane, that I will steal her from them forever.