Babies need to wear hats.
This is a should, and a truth, and everything in between.
Somewhere wrapped up in the should is what someone on the street might think of me if they saw me walking along with a baby and no hat. (In Guatemala, where I live, it is also readily judged if a baby wears no shoes, but that one I can get over because it’s not my culture. And it’s not a health risk, at least not while he’s crawling.)
Somewhere in the truth lies the very real but also perhaps exaggerated reality of the damage the sun can do to all skin, especially the fresh, new flesh of baby’s beautiful, soft face. We will be out for 20 minutes. Mostly in the shade.
I put the hat on baby’s head.
He takes it off.
With gestures that speak as loud as words, he says, “No, thank you” and drops it to the ground.
It doesn’t even belong to us. What if it gets lost?
I put it back on baby’s head.
He takes it off, tugging hard on the top until the velcro separates beneath his chin and his soft, curly hair is once again free to feel the breeze. He drops it to the ground.
I bend to pick it up, and swiftly cover his head yet again, holding it there for an extra moment, asserting my will a little louder.
Agitation begins to stir deep within me.
I can feel this escalating. There are many thoughts to tackle.
- I am the mommy and I said “hat”.
- What if he argues every time?
- What if I give in and he gets burnt?
- What if I never learn to set boundaries?
- And of course, the aforementioned, what will people think of my worthiness as a mom?
The third time I pick up the hat, of course, he is laughing because now it’s a game. I am beginning to lose my temper; my neutralizing and counterbalancing force is beginning to feel compromised. My tunnel vision is threatening to close in. Why can’t he just wear the damn hat?
On the verge of wrestling a tiny hat out of the hands of a very tiny human, I realize that I have more options than just he wears it or he doesn’t.
I move closer to the wall. He likes to feel the different textures. He reaches his hand out.
I put the hat on his head.
We walk slowly now, exclaiming over the various sensations, navigating the neighbourhood in this new way.
The hat stays on the whole way home. And I don’t feel angry at all.