Monday, July 25, 2011

How Babies Influence People

He's only seven months old, but my son Mack has a lot of influence. He has the ability to stop people in their tracks and to facilitate interaction. I've lived in my neighborhood for six years but only know a few of my neighbors. I'm lucky if I can get a nod or a hello from most of the people on the street. But once I put little Mack in the stroller, the game changes. Recently a middle-aged man was walking with a bag of groceries. Upon seeing Mack, he dropped to his knees in front of the stroller to greet him. A woman who I'd never seen before Mack was born has stopped us to chat a few times and to try to get him to smile. Other people wave and smile when we walk by. "How's the baby today?" is a question that people will ask from their porches. But when I'm alone, I'm left alone. I like the influence that Mack has on people. I have the simple belief that neighbors should be friendly and at least be on a "hi" basis. I don't see the point of ignoring your neighbors. If it weren't for babies and dogs, I wonder how much less interaction there would be.

Of course, Mack is not the only infant to influence people. Most of the parties I go to these days include lots of children. My social circle is full of parents and their kids. So I spend a lot of time around children. So much conversation centers around parenting. We fawn over each other's babies and say things like "Your baby is so cute!" and "Oh my God, your baby is beautiful!" That leads to comparing notes about parenting practices and other small talk. Babies really are talented at starting and sustaining conversations. That's a lot of influence for a group of people who can't talk or walk!

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