Mexico has a way of pushing my momma boundaries. It started when Mae was a baby and we took her to a restaurant. She was happily sitting in her high chair, looking like the super cute, chunky baby that she was. The waitress took our order and then “oohed and awed” a little over Mae. Soon, she was back with the food and more fawning. Mae started to get a little restless and I was trying to negotiate eating whilst jiggling a 5 month year old on my lap when the waitress came over and said, “Me presta tu bebe?”
In the spirit of cultural openness I considered it. In the US, this exchange would never happen. Handing your baby over to complete strangers is not a “thing” in the US. But in Mexico, motherhood and babies are more–common property, I guess. This is a country that literally worships the Mother of God. Often you see grandmothers, aunties, cousins, big sisters carrying babies around. So reluctantly, I handed her over, thinking the waitress would hold her a little, I could wolf down the last bite and then she’d give her back.
But the waitress just took off. Like for 10 minutes. She walked Mae around the restaurant, showing her to other waitresses and customers. She made her way to the back to the kitchen and out of sight.
I felt a pit in my stomach. My fears ranged from the excessive–the waitress has kidnapped her–to the more mundane–she’s crying and she wants her mommy!
In fact, she was crying and that’s what made the waitress return.
I knew it!
Mae was a “momma’s girl” and every stranger that tried to breach my momma boundary was usually met with tears. Mae was on my side.
Another time, in a smaller outside restaurant, two little girls asked to hold her. I had learned my lesson and told them to stay close and plopped her on the ground. The girls played a little with Mae, mostly touching her cheeks and almost-non-existent downy hair. They said they had another friend, just over there. Couldn’t they take Mae there for a second? Reluctantly, I agreed. But after 30 seconds of her being out of sight, we went to get her.
We found the two girls urging a very hesitant and annoyed Mae to drink a liquid yogurt drink–her first food. I scooped her up–yogurt beard and all.
Mae’s first preschool experience was similar. I felt urged, compelled, to enroll her in preschool. Everyone else was doing it. It seemed like the way to help her learn Spanish. But she was 3 and my momma boundary was firm. She is too young.
I dropped her off–feeling the old reluctance and fear (she’s going to get kidnapped and I’ll never see her again and she’s going to cry and there’s nothing I can do to help.) In fact, she did cry. She cried herself hoarse. By the time I picked her up 3 hours later her face was puffy and red and still full of tears.
I decided that momma boundary would stay.
Today I feel that same pit in my stomach. Mae’s 6th grade class is going on an overnight field trip–two nights to be exact. Mae was spent two nights away from me or her dad–never. Not once.
But again–Mexico asks me to challenge this momma boundary. Everyone else is doing it, has done it for many years. The kids in every grade at the school have a sleepover so all the parents know this is is going to be fine. As always, Mexico is saying, “me presta tu bebe?”
My fears are the same–she’ll get kidnapped and I’ll never see her again or she’s crying right now I can’t do anything to help. But last night Mae was excited and nervous to go. She asked me to write her a letter in case she felt homesick and our goodnight hug was extra long.
I think she will not be crying when I pick her up.