Her seasoned hands reached for the child longingly. Her wrinkled mouth opened wide in what was meant to be a smile, demonstrating her rotten teeth. She clapped loudly for the baby’s attention, as if the loud sound would disarm the mother of her apprehensions.
Worst case scenario was she picked up Eva and tossed her into the nearby canal. Morbid yes. But these are the thoughts of a new parent venturing through the small streets of central Vietnam with a six-month-old baby.
Best case scenario?
Jury’s still out on a best case.
The story is a familiar one. Restaurant, cafe, or random dark alley, everyone wants to steal our child. I gather it is mostly because our daughter is cute as a button and smiles at everyone with a pulse. They all have their reasons. Some have been more forthcoming in their motive.
“She has face of foreigner.”, said one cafe owner. “She have white face.”
Thank you… I guess.
Others say she reminds them of their children. One said that, even though moments before they had said they don’t have any children. Language barrier maybe? One grandma suggested her grandson and Eva get married.
There has been upwards of 40 different people whom we have met that have either held or tried to hold our child. It has pushed us, far more than the smells or spices we’ve encountered so far. It has forced us to think deeply about our child’s needs and our own fears as parents. Traveling pushes people to grow. Traveling with a child in SE Asia should be no different.
Through it all, with any and all of these accounts, it has been a lesson in two things…
The majority of the people we’ve met have the most genuine and heartfelt desires in wanting to hold our child. They see this precious little girl and it evokes the fondest of emotions.
Compassion. Joy. Love.
These are all emotions based out of their ideas of community. They have the perspective that your child is everyone’s child. That for the benefit of the babe and the parents they each have a role in loving and caring for the whole family.
They tell us to cover her head as we walk down the street if the sun comes out. They hold her to give mom and dad a break for a bit. Or they want to show to everyone around the beautiful joy of life so evident in a newborn baby’s eyes. They care for her as if she were theirs, because in part, she is. The second she enters their world she has become part of their community. It’s a beautiful thing.
While we love the idea of community it is also scary. Very scary. Willingly handing your child to someone you met minutes before takes a mountain of courage. It also takes a motherly intuition that I do not possess. For this I defer to the wife in all aspects of Vietnamese community child sharing.
In the end though, the more arms that hold our child the more relaxed we have become. Our assurance in Gods protection and the people’s overall desire to keep our child safe and cared for has grown immensely in the last week.
My own mother speaks much of how relaxed she was with me, the ninth child, compared with the apprehensions she had with her firstborn child. Being relaxed takes time. It takes small steps of courage to find the patience and peace necessary to put the ‘joy and love of your life’ into a stranger’s arms. It also takes a strong wife who will not hesitate to say ‘No, thank you’, if she doesn’t feel comfortable with someone holding her baby – like she did with the rotten tooth woman at the beginning of this post.
Whether it is community or comfort, traveling with our child has been immeasurably joyful. And so far, we’re pretty sure no one has tried to steal our child… yet.