I suppose it's considered rude to tell an elderly woman that if she touches your child, you'll rip her hands off. Even now, typing it out as a hypothetical, it seems harsh. Yet, when I think of my recent encounter with an over-excited old lady who loved my little girl too much, it seems reasonable enough to me. My momma bear thinks it's actually fairly lenient.
I recently had the honor and privilege of going for coffee with a lovely couple whom I adore, and who are now expecting their own little bundle of joy. I couldn't be happier for these two folks, they're great people who will be great parents. Plus their child will be able to bend steel bars and snap chains at birth, so I'm REALLY looking forward to the arrival of their super ninja baby. Unfortunately, we don't see these folks near often enough, so I jump at every chance I get to lure them out with the promise of hot, tasty drinks.
We were relaxing in a very nice coffee shop and my two chitlins were playing nicely as the grownups chattered. Well, that's a lie. My son was telling the father-to-be all about Darth Vader, my daughter was pulling magazines off the tables, and me and the momma-to-be were talking. At some point in the conversation we were discussing invasive people, especially how darned invasive folks can be when it comes to kids and pregnancies. I warned her about the people who touch your kid or your belly without permission, and she was aghast and incredulous. It seemed impossible to her that a random stranger would just walk up and try to handle another stranger's progeny.
Just then I was hugged from behind by a little old lady. A little old lady whom I've never seen before in my life. She would have tackled me if she weighed more than 50 pounds, shouting hello as if we were old friends, and then proceeded to attempt to engage my daughter. Both of my kids were looking at this lady as if she were nuts (kids can be very astute, don't you think?) and my daughter was obviously afraid. My son actually pretended to have a cough and told her he didn't want to get her sick when she began accosting him for a hug and kiss. Where he learned that little trick I have no Earthly clue, but it was one of the few times I will ever be happy to see him fib.
The woman spent some time trying to get my daughter to play, then moved on to my son and started playing connect four with him at the table nearby. Fine, he wanted someone to play the game with and she seemed relatively harmless, although someone should have informed her that if you say "I'm not going to hurt you" it makes you sound like you just might do exactly that... At this point I figure she's perhaps a little soft in the noggin, but sweet and just friendly. She's also under the watchful eye of three adults who won't let her mess with my kids. After a little while I had to go to the bathroom and I asked my good friends if they could keep an eye on both kids for me while I did so. I ran to the restroom and was in there for maybe five minutes, tops, and was washing my hands when I hear my daughter screaming.
I figured she'd fallen down. I mean, she's just cruising and not terribly well balanced and when she falls she tends to freak out. I hightailed it out into the seating area to find my friend taking my daughter back from the crazy lady. That's right, when the sweet little old lady looked up and saw that mom was gone she swooped in to pick up the baby. Without a shred of permission.
In my opinion, it looks damned suspicious if you don't even ask me for permission to hold my child, you just wait until I leave and then grab her when she is unguarded. That creeps me out because that seems about one step shy of abduction. Luckily my two friends were there, who both happen to be very BA and would totally ninjitsu an old lady in the face for my kids. I took my daughter back and immediately began gathering up the kiddos and declaring an end to the outing. I was done letting this old woman anywhere near my kids, since her claims of being perfectly harmless weren't as convincing anymore.
Once outside I just looked at my friend, who was practically tripping over her own jaw at this point, and said "See? I rest my case. Count yourself lucky that she never noticed your baby bump or she'd have groped you."
People have a disturbing lack of boundaries when it comes to babies and kids. They ask probing personal questions about name and age and where they live and go to school, how much they eat or weigh, etc. They ruffle hair, adjust collars, maybe even pull up a drooping pair of pants. They get within about two inches of the child's face, sometimes even planting a wet one on a cheek or forehead. Crap you would NEVER do to another adult, especially a total stranger. And they rarely ask permission first. Why people feel that children are somehow communal property is beyond me. Yeah, maybe it takes a village, but in a village everyone knows each other. Strangers from another village don't just take liberties because that would be rude and a bit weird. My rule of thumb is unless you are a part of someone's "village" (close friend or relative by blood or marriage) you don't touch their kid without permission.
Parents, by the way, could stand to pass this on to their children, too. No one is more touchy with my daughter than other little girls, around the age of five. And not just wanting to pat her hair or stroke her tiny fingers, I mean attempting to pick her up. When she was about 6 months old a young girl literally attempted to pull her out of her father's arms at a play area. Parents, please make sure to keep an eye on your daughters if you see they are near an infant, and please intervene if they get too handsy.
My sense of decorum kept me from being an eighth as rude as I wanted to that fateful day. What I wanted to say to that senile old lady was "if you touch my kids again you will pull back a bloody stump."