Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 75: Stranger Danger

My danger seeker ironically also happens to be my stranger danger baby.

With few exceptions, most family and friends get a look of terror, the world's cutest quivering lip and waterworks, sometimes even when he's in my arms. Of course he eventually warms up, but the initial interaction is nearly always challenging for him. If you've interacted with him and haven't experienced this, you're one of the special few whose energy must really put him at ease from the start.

Jackson never went through a phase like this, so I'm learning as we go. It's no stretch to accept that he wants to stay with me, but somehow the small part of me that's socially trained to think "polite" means compromising yourself to make sure no one ever feels uncomfortable still exists, and it stirs up a compulsive need to apologize or make excuses for him, sometimes even try to coax him into warming up before he's ready.

It seems so minor to us because our established relationships tell us there's nothing to be scared of, but to him it's clearly a major emotional upheaval and should be honored as such. So he's giving me lots of great opportunities to practice kind authenticity.

There is a "nice" way to honor his feelings and advocate for him. Although whether or not it's received as polite is up to the person involved, I suppose. But since a big part of how it's received has to do with whether it comes from a place of acceptance or resistance, I have a pretty significant say in the matter.

Am I focused on resisting a person's desire to take him from me or interact too soon? Or am I putting my energy into accepting his need for security and time to get reacquainted? The latter puts everyone at ease, especially him, so I'm working to stay present during these chaotic interactions instead of slipping into default and choosing the former.

I want to send Max a clear message that his feelings are valid and simultaneously show him that the person we're with and the environment we're in are safe. With a little practice, and a little patience from our family, I think we're getting there.


  1. I think the way you are working with Max is brilliant. :)

    I was brought up to respect children and not to make them come to me if they havent met me before. I take the time to let them get to know me and soon enough I end up with a lap full of kids. People get nervous around new encounters and children are little people. Would we expect another adult to rush over and hug us if we had only just met? I dont think so! So why do some people expect children to react that way? Its crazy when you take the time to think about it.

    Anyone who thinks the child is being impolite is pretty egocentric if you ask me! (Hmm... time to get off the Soapbox, lol)

  2. It does seem like common sense, but then common sense isn't common, right? :) Fortunately for us, all of our family and friends have been very patient. It's really just that initial excitement at seeing him and getting a little too intense and/or coming at him too soon...sometimes not even that! lol

    We don't have any "just give him to me" types to deal with thankfully. And so as usual the tug of war is really just with myself and letting go of all the "shoulds" you take in growing up - like he "should" be comfortable with these people or I "should" help them feel better about his crying (as if they're being rejected by my baby?) instead of helping him feel validated and protected. I'm sure none of them think he's impolite, and probably not even me - although many of them grew up in the age where you just passed your baby around without respect to how the baby felt about it, so they might think it's a little strange that my kids are always with me.

    Btw, soapboxes always welcome here! Haha :)

  3. Out of my three girls, Alayna was the only one who had that "stranger danger". I did not go very far her first two years, however now at the ripe ole age of 4.5, she is as bubbly as they get!

  4. Caleb had the same problem and still does once an awhile... Most of my family members understood and gave him time to warm up but others had no clue and would try to bombard him right away... So annoying and i got the same feelings like i had to apologize or feel bad that he acted that way when really the adult should have known better... I think what you are doing is great... Andrea Eaton