When I walk around carrying Henry in the Bjorn, lots of things happen. I start doing strange contortions to try to figure out whether he’s asleep (or whether the hat has slipped down over his eyes). My back hurts. But the most interesting thing is the reactions of other people. Most people smile, either at Henry or at me or, most often, first at Henry, then at me. People who, I’m quite certain, wouldn’t ordinarily smile at me if their lives depended upon it, smile at Henry. It’s like magic. But there’s more.

Often, people stop to talk to me or better, to Henry. That’s cool. I’m happy to say that the strange sub-population that feels compelled to touch any baby in sight is relatively small. But it raises a questions of etiquette: how long do I have to stop walking while they ogle my baby? It’s not that I want to be anti-social–I’m quite happy to strike up a conversation about Henry’s teeth, or crawling ability, or the color of his latest poop. It’s just that some people seem to want to silently ogle and wave or make faces. Which leaves me feeling less like Henry’s dad and more like some inanimate display stand. They’re being rude, of course (though how can they help it, really; his charm and beauty are entrancing). But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Miss Manners–besides the importance of plain white paper and black or blue-black ink–it’s that more rudeness is never the right response to rudeness. So I smile politely and try to get Henry to wave back, all the while thinking “is this long enough?”