We’ve all heard the rants of nervous mothers, upset that a stranger reached out and booped their baby on the nose. As a mom of three, I totally get it! It is important to be the voice for your baby, to set boundaries and be there to enforce them.
I start talking to my kids early on about stranger danger and who to trust. Before they’re old enough for that, though, there is a window of time when they’re constantly on me. My nurslings love to tag along wherever Mama goes, propped on my hip or snug in a carrier. During this stage, they attract a lot of attention, and unless I get a bad vibe, I usually stop so people can talk to my baby.
A week or so before this past Christmas, my husband and I ran out for the last of our wrappings and candy. Slim pickings of paper patterns and awkward traffic jams in every aisle didn’t leave me feeling very jolly. My husband, on the other hand, seemed to relish the hustle and bustle and browsed casually despite the chaos.
As we scanned the shelves of chocolate, an older woman stopped beside us. “What a cute baby!” she said, grinning sweetly. I parked my cart and thanked her as my charming seven-month-old, Billy, held my thumbs and kicked happily in the seat. They babbled back and forth for a minute as my husband chose some M&M-filled candy canes and I looked on.
Her eyes glittered with humor as the baby squealed and gave her one of his famous, cheeky smiles. We laughed in unison, and I described the excitement at home over his first Christmas. She seemed delighted to discuss his sisters and the ordinary details of preparing for guests.
After our brief encounter, she thanked us for being (in her words) so sweet. She commented again how beautiful he was and how much she appreciated that we’d stopped to talk to her. With a wistful smile, she told us that she had lost her son a few years back and the holidays had been difficult ever since. After exchanging heartfelt sympathy and blessings, we parted ways. I still pray for her when she’s put on my heart.
Why did this dear woman feel the need to talk to us? Why do people in general feel prompted to interact with little ones?
There are plenty of practical reasons. Often people say, “I miss when mine were that little! or “I have a grandchild around his age.” Maybe they’re praying for a baby of their own or recently had miscarriage. Maybe they’re lonely and your baby brightens their day. Even I can’t help but pull a face at a busload of kids in traffic or play peekaboo with the nosy toddler in the next booth in a restaurant.
But, I think there are also deeper reasons.
Something about babies is just so special. Maybe because they’re so newly knit, so recently held by the hands of the Creator. Maybe because they are blameless, pure of heart, and closer to who we are meant to be than even the most righteous grown up. Their connection to Heaven is clear, not muddied with shame or muted by doubt or stretched thin with worry.
To the world my son is just my baby, but the truth is he is a child of God who has been entrusted to my care. He is filled with the Holy Spirit received at his baptism, and he has his own missions to carry out for the Kingdom. God doesn’t limit purpose to adults, and I fully believe that children can be ministers of love in its purest form.
I know more than once my kids have delivered messages from the Father straight to my heart. I am always stunned when they speak wisdom in small voices and display compassion beyond their years. I guide them through life, yet in so many ways I learn from their example.
Realistically, I can’t stop and talk with everyone. But I try to acknowledge those who take an interest, even if all I can manage is a nod and a smile. I try to see past my busyness and slow down when I recognize God’s providential hand at work. It’s a simple sacrifice to offer a passing moment when it’s all God’s time anyway. And I am blessed whenever I can witness the brokenness in someone’s soul appealing to the Holy Spirit alive in my child.
I want to teach my children to treat those they interact with not as a waste of time or an obstacle to the task at hand, but as souls whom God loves. As people of worth in need of respect, a look in the eye, and a friendly face. As hearts seeking Jesus, whether consciously or not. As broken people just like us, seeking the acceptance we all long for. We need to stay vigilant and be protective—keep being the strong Mama Bears our babies need. But let’s not forget to slow down, use discernment, and be amazed at the ministry of our children and the great impact God can make through simple kindness.