Mrs. K, Liam and I went to a “play” late one night past Liam and Mrs. K’s bed time. Yes, an actual play that people pay for, not a freebie at a school or rec center. I was skeptical taking Liam as he’s only 7 months old and typically becomes crabby around 7:30-8 pm when its bed time for them both. We’ve never been out that late, other than a relative’s house; and I was unsure of taking on that sort of challenge. For that matter I’ve always been unsure of going out with my son and wife those first few months as to avoid being “that couple” with the annoying crying baby in public that everyone turns their heads at and collectively curse us in their uniformed minds. Growing up I was the back-of-the-class invisible kid that didn’t disturb the water but rather floated on the ripples others created. This transitioned into adulthood and eventually fatherhood. Never wanting to create a scene in public and slide through unnoticed without rippling the water.
So as you can guess, taking a 7 month old to a play that late at night posed a problem to that lifelong fear of being singled out and gawked at. Although the play was highly informal and boasted a sparse attendance with semi-stadium seating, that didn’t mean my fear was any less real. I sucked it up and we went to a play where I was sure my son would be the one taking bows at the end.
Suffice to say he made it through the majority of the show without incident before deciding to become a bit chatty to the point where he and Mrs. K had to make a timely exit. There were only a few moments when he wanted fed throughout the ordeal. Now when my son gets hungry and knows he’s about to receive his beloved bosom; he makes this half cackle/cough sound that demands the attention of others around him. Now this is actually kind of cute, but makes it rather difficult to stealthily feed in public. Indeed, he did make his patented here-comes-my-boob! noise, and indeed, people did take notice as it was a quiet moment in the play.
There was a group of older people in the audience that noticed my wife’s boob was out and sustaining the life of my child. To my horror they watched the unbuckling of bra-straps and lifting of breasts into Liam’s gaping noise-emitting mouth. To my surprise, the two women of the group looked on with a smile of loving content, completely opposite of what I was expecting. His coos and talking were also met with smiles, even by a couple of the actors in the production. Now that means one of two things are happening. Either the innocence of a child really does overcome all that they disrupt, or my son is just that damn cute that you can’t help but smile at his striking beauty. I’d like to think it’s the latter, and all the little girls in his daycare will tell you it’s latter.
In this moment I realized that maybe I was being too overly-paranoid about the whole thing and left wondering why? Why should I be embarrassed or ashamed of my infant son making a scene? His behaviors aren’t restricted by social protocol. He’s not concerned with what others view him as. He’s a child. He’s my child. The fact that he is cooing and making incoherent gibberish makes a father smile with pride. So why is this bugging me? And in sitting there watching the older women smile at my feeding child, who earlier downplayed a more serious moment in the play with his giddy feeding noise, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t care. He is a baby after all, and that’s what babies to. They make noise, they cry, they need to be fed, and most importantly they need to be free to express themselves through their noises and gestures.
From now on, I will hold my son up, Simba style, and exclaim “This is my son, he’s gonna fuss, he’s gonna eat, and you’re going to deal with it!” I love my son.