As anyone who's ever had a baby knows - or anyone who's ever been in public with a friend or family member with an infant - carting around a tiny human has the same effect as walking around with a T-shirt imprinted with the words, "I LOVE STRANGERS! PLEASE COME TALK TO ME!" Everywhere you go, randos want to tell you how cute your baby is. They want to know how old she is. How heavy she is. What she eats. When she sleeps. Where she got her huge blue eyes. I have no problem entertaining these inquiries, though after the umpteenth time, I tend to get a little snarky. ("Where'd she get those eyes? Oh, probably from her father. I saw her attack his face with a spoon, so I'm assuming she gouged them out. She's spunky, this one!")
In recent weeks, I've learned that there is a one surefire way to take that T-shirt and turn it into a billboard that says, "YOU! HEY, YOU! COME HERE! I NEED TO KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON MY BABY! IMMEDIATELY!!!"
Slap a helmet on a baby. Game over.
As most of you already know, Lib was fitted for her helmet a couple weeks ago to fix a flat spot on her head. The technical term for what she has is deformational plagiocephaly. All that means is her head was forming a little flat on one side and she needs the helmet to help it round out. I was anxious about it at first, but thanks to some great info and advice from a longtime family friend who also went through this (thanks, Leanne!) and the reassurance from all of Lib's doctors that this was going to be harder on me and Justin than on Lib, I soon eased up. The helmet truly doesn't seem to bug her. It took us a minute to get used to it, but now that we are, it's just another part of daily life. Lib will get scanned again in November, and if she's made enough progress, we're done. In the grand scheme of things, this is just a blip on the radar.
But in addition to helping even out my child's head, the helmet serves the dual purpose of attracting all kinds of attention ranging from helpful to just plain weird. Helpful: the woman who approached us at the mall to tell us about her nephew, who wore a helmet for six months, and the awesome artist who decorated it with his favorite cartoon characters. Weird: the guy in Home Depot who asked me if he should look into getting one of those helmets for his grandchildren, because aren't they just for "keeping the kid from hitting her head?" I mean, now that she's crawling it is kind of nice to have a little extra padding up there, but no, not really, Guy.
But the weirdest of weird came when Just, Lib and I were traveling to visit family over the Labor Day weekend. We had, very fortuitously, pulled off at a truck stop on a windy county road for a snack when a microburst-like storm smacked down. We had just made it inside when winds sent the garbage cans sailing past the gas pumps and the station's power went out. The place was soon packed with wide-eyed fellow travelers and drenched truckers who'd pulled off to wait out the doom. Lib was completely unfazed. Between the ice cream I bought us to share and the seemingly random offerings of this particular truck stop store - everything from fancy Bedazzled fanny packs to neon Jesus plaques - she was kept perfectly entertained. After a half hour, the worst of it seemed to have passed and we decided to get back on the road. Justin offered to get the car and bring it to the curb, as it still was raining. I waited near the doors until he pulled up, then prepared to sprint as best I could while clutching Lib to my chest. The instant I pushed open the door with my hip, a stream of water hit us. At the same moment, a voice called to us from behind.
"Ma'am?" A man beckoned to us from just outside the door. I turned and saw a flannel-clad trucker sucking on a cigarette.
"Yes?" I asked, pulling Lib closer to me and blinking rain from my eyes.
The trucker took a step toward us.
"Ma'am? What is the matter with your baby?" The seriousness of his tone gave me pause. My initial urge was to say, "What's the matter with my baby? Well, at the moment, she's soaked because you're making me stand here in an effing DOWNPOUR." But then I decided the high road was better than the...bitter, wet road?....so I answered.
"She has a flat spot on her head and the helmet is helping correct it." I flashed a fake smile and turned to go.
Beyond annoyed, I spun around again.
"It's just that...she looks like she's ready to play quarterback!"
I looked down at my helmeted, dripping child and couldn't help but smile. Dammit, she did look like a teeny football player. Kind of like a wee George Clooney in "Leatherheads."
I laughed. The trucker looked so sincere. I realized his question came from nothing other than normal curiosity and that I needed to calm to eff down. It's normal to want to make sure that little ones are nothing but happy and healthy. A simple question followed by a silly comment isn't the end of the world.
Since then, I've tried to be more patient with strangers who approach us in public. I'm happy to talk about Lib's experience, listen to stories about their friends and family members and answer any questions they have.
And if any neighborhood kids need a QB for their game of pickup football, I have just the girl.