My older daughter’s school requires parents to volunteer a certain amount of time or pay a tuition increase. Since I don’t have the extra cash to waste on something easily avoided and also needed to get out and meet people in our new neighborhood, I decided it was a great opportunity for me. Well, for us.
Yes, us. For myself and… baby! I don’t have family nearby and I also don’t know anyone in order to leave her during the day to volunteer. So, I take her with me to the school. But how to do that without causing a distraction for myself and the students or putting her in a potentially dangerous situation? Baby wear!
I volunteer once a week for lunch duty, sometimes more if needed. So, we go to the office, sign in, and I strap baby to my front or back in our Mei Tai or Ring Sling, whichever I brought along that day. I’d love a wrap as well but that’s not an option right now.
We walk into the cafeteria and greet the students who all, at first, crowded around asking a thousand questions: “Is this your baby?”, “Why is she in that thing?”, “What’s that called?” and comments about how most of them had never seen such a thing. Now, as the year has gone by, they are used to seeing baby and myself and simply say “Hello” to both of us, greet the baby by name, and go on about their lunch break.
The main reason I am at lunch duty is to help the younger children open milk cartons and their lunches, clean up messes, walk around and make sure every child is eating, has something to eat, and is happy. You never know when you might come across a kid who doesn’t feel well, or got their feelings hurt, or forgot their lunch, etc. And since baby is in a carrier, my hands are free to help while baby helps them smile and feel more open with me to share whatever problem they might have.
There is a particular girl who in the beginning of the year was being picked on for looking different. It’s not her fault. So, wearing this exciting and excited baby of mine, and sporting a pair of glasses that day as well, I sat and talked with her at lunch while the children who picked on her watched. She has not been picked on since that day as far as she has told me, and feels special because I make it a point to stop and talk to her every time. Again, with baby who’s smiling, laughing, and hugging her from her safe perch against Mommy’s chest.
My older daughter loves to see us and tells everyone, “That’s my Mommy and Baby Sister!” and tells everyone about us. She’s very proud.
And, of course, we can’t forget baby. At first, she was still a little baby so she would watch quietly snuggled against me and after a few minutes, fall asleep. Now, she’s over a year old and smiles and squeaks and “talks” to the children and watches everything they do. She’s developing relationships, recognizing certain faces, and learning how to act in social situations, all from the safety of my arms, or baby carrier.
I think the cutest experience out of this so far has been the fact that many girls have come up to me asking how to wear a baby and parents have also told me, some showing cell phone pictures, that their children now walk around the house “wearing” their baby dolls with scarves, pillow cases, etc. One little girl even asked Santa Claus for a toy ring sling. Her mother came to me and asked where she could find such a thing.
I knew volunteering at a school is important. But I never realized the kind of impression my bringing baby along would do, especially since I am not an expert at baby wearing at all. I hope this inspires someone to wear their baby and maybe even realize that doing so opens the world to them and their child in an easy and nurturing way.