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Trust strangers with your kids, not your pocketbook

Our children exit the womb into the hands of strangers. It generally turns out that the obstetrician who shows up to "catch" is never the one who attended you throughout your pregnancy. And, if you're like me, there isn't any time for small talk like "You're doing fine. I'll be back to check on you in a little while." The nurse keeps yelling, "Honey, you're going to have to hang on until the doctor gets his other glove on!"

Seconds later, another nurse, whom I've never met, whisks my baby away for prints and measurements with my husband following closely, armed with instructions not to let that baby out of his sight, lest it disappear into the hospital abyss.

Sometimes we have no choice but to trust strangers with our children. Probably the same strangers to whom we just finished telling our children not to talk. There is nothing worse than being in a check-out line at Bi-Lo holding a baby, trying to prevent a two-year old from leaping from the cart, and exhorting a four-year-old and a six-year-old, in my nicest mean-mommy voice, to quit fondling and caressing the candy. Doing all this while trying to dig 62 cents out of the bottom of my purse so that I don't have to break a five dollar bill deserves consideration as an Olympic event (it's far more interesting than rhythmic gymnastics).

That's when the kind stranger in line behind me smiles a tight smile (one of those I-just-had-a-facelift-yesterday smiles), and says in a syrupy voice "I'll hold the baby for you." So, in desperation I hand her the baby that she holds for ransom to ensure that I will hurry up, pay my 62 cents and take back the baby that just spit up on her.

Curiously, if she offered to dig through my purse for the 62 cents, I certainly would say no. After all, he is a stranger.

Odder still, I have forcefully placed my children into the hands of strangers.

You may have been in the line of cars behind the school bus one morning and had the privilege of witnessing one of my life's most embarrassing moments. I wrestled my five-year-old child, our arms, legs and feet tangling in the process, onto the bus. At one point, I held him only by the collar of the shirt. And had I let loose, his momentum would probably have carried him all the way to school.

I persevered through the thrashing, wriggling, crying and yelling and eventually managed to push him through the doors of the bus, while shouting to the bus driver "go, go, go!"

All through parenthood we entrust our children to people whom we do not know. We spend our children's entire lives trying to let go of them, while at the same time trying desperately to hold on. Like teaching them to ride a bike, we want so badly for our kids to take off and do it on their own, but we don't want to let go too soon. Finally we do and they wobble away from us as we follow behind intending to catch them when they fall. Almost always we are too late. Almost always ... it doesn't matter. They get up and they're off again.

Before we know it, they don't even look back to see if we're there. And most of the people they know are strangers to us.

Again they enter the world ... into the hands of strangers.



Web posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004


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