To Hold or Not to Hold, That is The Question

Foreign Service LifePeru
May 23, 2012

As I’ve mentioned before, Nia is VERY popular here.  Almost too popular, if I’m being honest (although who am I to shy away from attention).  This outpouring of love for her shows up in a variety of ways, most of which would make an American parent squirm.  Today, for instance, we were out in public for roughly 3 hours and she attracted the following interactions:

-2 strangers kissed her face
-2 brought her hand to their mouth and kissed it
-1 wanted to give her a treat
-Somewhere between 15-20 people stopped to make faces at her and ask questions (ie: how old, how many teeth, etc)
-4 strangers asked to hold her

And so this brings me to the decision point that many of my Expat friends have stood at – specifically, what is my policy about stranger interactions with my child?  I’ve observed this problem in the past and seen people take a variety of responses to it.  Some allow their children to be touched and held whenever, others make excuses about the child being shy with strangers, some straight-up decline and others keep their kid on them at all times in a body carrier so it’s hard to touch/take the child.

So Where Do I Stand?

I’m somewhere in the middle.  Any dummy could see that my daughter LOVES the attention.  I also enjoy seeing the joy she brings to other people.  I also tend to be trusting and believe that people have good intentions.  So my natural inclination is to allow the majority of interactions.  For example, today I allowed everything but the treat.  That being said, I check in with my intuition before handing her over and I also try to limit holding to confined spaces like a coffee shop.  Her safety is my first priority, but I also want to be an interactive part of the culture we live in, and in Peru that means showing affection toward babies.  Hopefully that won’t end up biting me in the butt…

I’d love to hear how other people have dealt with this phenomenon and if you have any interesting stories to share regarding it.

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  1. My friend posted in Korea is married to a Filipino (born and raised in Chicago). Anyway, Koreans are not used to seeing “halfsies” as she described it, so everywhere she goes they want to hold her daughter and take pictures (her daughter just turned 1 in January, and was born in Korea). She just goes with it, but laughs about it saying “WHEN in the US I would just hand my baby to a STRANGER? But here they come motioning over to give her, and I just hand her over without a second thought.”

  2. Sarah Novak says:

    I can totally see that happening! Awesome story. :)

  3. elise says:

    …and I thought Brazilians loved babies! We haven’t really encountered the “I want to hold her!” phenomenon yet, though because Clem is still pretty small and they while they want to look at newborn babies they are very respectful of space…(only when it comes to babies!) They love children and that alone is very refreshing as I’m sure you will agree having just come from the States. It is very rare that in any situation when a man or woman passes by them they don’t stop to talk to them or tousle their hair. I think I’ve learned (in many ways!) that the US is very paranoid and thinks that everyone is trying to kidnap your baby and that instead I’ve tried to find a happy medium of embracing the child centered culture of Brazil while being cautious. I think i’d draw the line at letting anyone hold my kids, but I think you are right to trust your gut and let it happen in situations that you feel confined and comfortable. Mama knows best.

  4. Daniela says:

    We also live in a culture (India) that loves kids, especially chubby pale ones. So wherever we go, everyone wants to take Chutney’s picture, touch him (most often on the face) or hold him. At first, we thought it was cute but it is getting old. And he recently got a cold when no one in the family had one, so I couldn’t help but think he got it from some of the strangers that insist on touching his face all the time. So I try to be nice but I have been heard saying “Please don’t touch him!” I know it seems rude but I do worry about communicable diseases. I also once had a lady try to pick him up from his stroller without asking. I was right there behind the stroller and was not amused… So, I agree with Elise, do what feels comfortable to you.

  5. Sara Roy says:

    I did it on a case by case basis. People in Costa Rica were very loving towards kids. When I announced my pregnancy of my last and during my pregnancy and the 10-ish months we lived there with him he was the apple of everyone’s eye. Also, we moved there with a 2 1/2 month old. We basically had a baby there the whole time. They loved it. My inner American fought the touching, especially when the Costa Ricans completely ignored me or John (I hated that), but I tried hard to not be unreasonable.

  6. Joyce says:

    Well, we put Nick in a stroller and then went into the cafe for coffee and sometimes we put a $5.00 bill around his neck. He was still there when we came out. What a life!!!! Actually to be serious, in Egypt they loved to touch him cause he had curly blonde hair. I guess we just let our intuition take over. Somehow he turned out great inspite of us. Nia will too. Nick loved to talk as he got older and never met a stranger he didn’t like. We always said if anybody took him they would bring him back cause he talked so much. Never had any problems anywhere. Love ya.

  7. sara says:

    I absolutely do not allow strangers to kiss my kids faces. I have no problems politely saying “please don’t touch her face” it’s mostly because I don’t get enough sleep as it is and when my kids are sick I get less sleep. Purely selfish! All kidding aside, I am not comfortable with strangers passing their germs to my kids. I generally can’t shoo away people from touching them though. In Manila it was crazy! Here in Ethiopia I’ve only had one situation where an older Grandpa asked to hold Ashlynn and I agreed. We just aren’t out and about like we were in Manila. Follow your Mama’s instinct is what I say!!!

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