06 March 2014

Expectations and Babies

As there have been zero comments regarding my last post about what linguistic or cultural things people might like me to try to dissect (pretty sure comments are enabled), I'm just going to see where the wind takes me. Today we're going with the schema involved when people respond to seeing babies (because this has puzzled me lately), thereby combining some semantics with this whole parenthood adventure I'm on. This will be a really casual discussion of the topic, and won't be terribly academic in style. You have been warned.

People sometimes say really moronic things when they see babies.

Well, at least, that's been my experience.

It started when E. was a newborn. She was too small for a baby carrier or the stroller, and if we were just walking to the grocery store, we didn't want to lug the carseat with us. So we'd bundle her up in a blanket and one of us would carry her. Inevitably, we would be asked, "Is that a baby?"

J.'s standard response became, "No, it's a bomb, that looks like a baby."

Mine was, "No, it's a turtle." Or a burrito, or anything along those lines. Apparently it messes with people's expectations when you're carrying a baby around without a stroller or a carseat.

Schema for baby includes: carseat and/or stroller.

The next weird comment I've gotten was when she got big enough for the baby carrier. It was amazing. I finally got to have my hands free when we went for a walk. And then someone said, "That's a baby? I thought you were carrying a dog in there!"

People actually do that? I've yet to see one of those, but I have seen people with dogs in strollers, so I suppose it's possible.

Schema for baby may not include soft fabric baby wraps/slings/carriers. At a guess, this may happen because we're in a suburb-y area with fewer people practicing more crunchy types of parenting.

The latest one is the assumption that my child is an inanimate object. I constantly get the comment that she's like a little doll (not sure why, since most dolls don't puke down the front of your shirt or bite), but the other day, someone seriously thought I was carrying around a doll in a baby carrier until E. moved. She said it was because E. was front-facing in the carrier. That might be a feasible assumption if I was eight, but last time I checked, I was in my late twenties. If I was carrying a doll around like that, I'd be a bit concerned about what was going on in my head.

Schema for baby does not include: front-facing carriers?
Additionally, schema for parent requires added height to suggest age? Or perhaps schema for parent requires said parent to be visibly in their thirties?
Drawing from above responses, my child's diminuitive size may be affecting people's responses, too. So:
Schema for baby includes an infant weighing more than 6 pounds as a newborn, otherwise, child may be mistaken for toy?

Judging from the few things I've extrapolated here, my own schema for baby doesn't match up to the ones these people have had. I'm finding it a little disturbing, to be honest, that the guy in the second instance was more primed to see soft carrier=dog than soft carrier=baby. The same thing goes for the people who think my daughter is a doll rather than a person. I've never seen an adult, or even a teenager, toting a doll around like it's a baby, so it's not part of the expectations I have when I see a person carrying a baby in a baby carrier.

A brief look at this topic tells me that I have a long way to go before I manage to put together a coherent cultural schema for "baby."

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