Well, it’s happened.
I received my first public child-sun-safety chastisement.
For those of you who don’t know, let me tell you that New Zealand has a disproportionately high rate of skin cancer thanks to the location of the ozone hole. Back in the 1980s, Australia started up a catchy sun safety campaign called “Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap”, which was shared by New Zealand to help educate the general population about the importance of sun protection. You slip on a long-sleeved tee, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap your sunnies (sunglasses) around your head to protect your eyes.
Being that I come from a very fair-skinned family, I was quite aware of NZ’s skin cancer stats years before moving here. When we did move to Aoteoroa, I
gently reminded hounded Chris about putting on sunblock, wearing sunnies, etc. Once we had Joe, I made sure that he was well-covered before heading out and have gotten in the habit of keeping sunblock and a sun hat in the nappy bag.
Now that it’s winter, Joe needs something a bit more substantial than a sunhat for when we’re outside. His jacket hood doesn’t have a wide brim, but it’s warmer. Since most of our walks are either covered by the sun shade on the stroller or by the awnings over the footpaths, he’s rarely in the sun at all.
Except, of course, for those increasingly rare times when I have Joe in the mei-tai carrier, rucksack style. If I’ve got him in the mei-tai, I can 99.9% of the time finagle my arms to put his hood back up if he slips it off during the walk, but it may be a few minutes before I realize that he’s taken it off. We were out for a walk earlier this week and I, thinking that my back and neck were feeling OK and that it would be alright to carry him (bad idea) put him in the mei-tai. I’d wrapped some sunnies aroud his head, slipped on a long-sleeved shirt, sweater vest, pants, leg-warmers, socks, shoes, a jacket, and pulled up the hood. We were ready!
I periodically checked our window reflections as we walked, making sure that his hood remained in place. I’d talk to him, draw his attention to things, or pat his bum gently if I saw him reaching for the hood in my peripheral vision, hoping to distract him enough so that he’d leave it in place until we reached our destination.
We were just around the corner from the store and were walking through a churchyard – no windows for reflections – when a woman came up beside us and started to speak to Joe…
“Aw, poor bubby! Your mumma didn’t put a hat on you!”
At first I didn’t know who she was talking to, but I was aware of her being very close to me. As the words were registering, she reached into the carrier and pulled Joe’s hood up, forcing me to stop mid-stride, and tied it under his chin again. I started to thank her and to explain that I’d checked his reflection only moments ago, he must have just pulled it off, etc. etc., but before I could finish my sentence she turned away, tossing over her shoulder that “people like you” shouldn’t be allowed to have kids.
I was flummoxed and flabbergasted. She may have meant to make me feel like a horrible mother, the type of parent that’s negligent of their child’s well-being, but she didn’t make me feel that way. She just made me mad. Call me overconfident, but I know that I do a good job taking care of Joe.
fuming thinking about the whole experience later that day. Even now, it would be easy for me to continue mentally berating this woman, to think about how rude and unjust she was, how badly she’d behaved, etc.
Instead, for some reason, I began to think about my own attitude. If any of you actually believe that I’m like my blog’s name (practically perfect), let me tell you that I’m not. I haven’t been quite so blatantly rude to a stranger as this woman was to me, but how many times have I done something nice all while having a rotten attitude, or ruined a kind act by making an unkind remark? I thought of the Bible verse that talks about the importance of our deeds and words. I couldn’t remember it exactly, so I looked it up. For those of you who are interested, you can find it in Colossians 3:17 where it says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Earlier in that same passage it talks to Christians about putting off anger, malice, wrath and putting on mercy, kindness, humility, patience… and oh yeah, forgiving others. Yes, even if those “others” are strangers who criticize my parenting abilities.
The rest of our shopping excursion was fine. Fun, actually. My little baby boy can lift my spirit so quickly with his “singing” and laughter, and he was positively giggling while I finished my purchases. He made other people laugh and smile, too. It was obvious that this little guy had joy in his heart and was completely unaware of anything else but the beautiful day, the opportunity to get out and see new things, and to be close to his mumma. I’m so thankful for him, and I hope that my words and deeds can set an example for him as he grows 🙂
PS – Chris says that Joe “looks like a dweeb” in this sweater vest, but I think that he looks adorable!