Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Micromanaging, Baby Stealer...

There used to be a woman at church that drove me just a little bit crazy. She had a tendency to be in everyone's business in some form or another, and if you worked with her on a project she had this habit of hounding you about things, or calling you to update you on some aspect that she could have easily waited to talk to you about, or updated you via email or a message. I screen my calls. It's not a great trait of mine, but I like my solitude and I hate answering the phone and having it be a sales person, survey taker, or just someone I don't want to talk to. So I let the machine get it almost every time, and if I want to talk to the person, I pick up the phone. This particular person would never leave whatever business she wanted to tell me about on a message, she would just leave a message to call her, and then she would call multiple times a day. I told her that I preferred email and hated talking on the phone but it didn't matter to her. She wanted to tell me whatever it was herself. I will admit that I lacked patience with her, and that I occasionally got snappy with her.
When I gave birth to my youngest daughter last December it was via an emergency C-section and it was four weeks earlier than we were expecting her. This woman was the only person that called me in the hospital and it wasn't to congratulate me on my baby or check on how I was doing. It was to report to me what was going on with a project that she had volunteered to take off my hands so that I wouldn't have to deal with it at the end of my pregnancy.
She would call me to remind me about meetings I was in charge of, or to report things that she could have told me about at a meeting scheduled later the same day. When I saw her at church I had a tendency to turn and hurry the other direction because if I didn't I would end up stuck in a conversation about something I already knew about, repeating things we had already said. She also had somewhat of a reputation as a baby stealer. That doesn't mean that she went around kidnapping babies, but she did love to hold people's babies, and had stalked me in the past, even following me into the mother's room to see if I was done nursing so that she could hold my baby. I don't really mind letting people hold my babies, but I am picky about who holds them, and I really like holding my babies myself, so I'm not one to pass them off all the time. This woman didn't seem to mind if the babies were unhappy while she held them. When my now 11 year old was a baby, she would follow me around every Sunday and steal him away and although he was fine with her at four months, by the time he was eight or nine months old he would cry and cry. I finally started avoiding her during church and went to great lengths to not let her hold subsequent babies. If the baby likes to be held by someone that is one thing, but when they are crying and don't like the person, that is another.
I spent a decade being annoyed by this woman. I was polite to her for the most part, but I am sure there were times when my annoyance showed through both in person and on the phone. That never seemed to phase her.
About six months ago, shortly after the birth of my last baby, I came to a sudden realization about this woman. She is lonely. I began to understand that the hounding phone calls, the baby holding, the checking up about minute details constantly were not because she is a micromanaging control freak, but because they were opportunities for her to connect with other people. Calling to remind people of something, or to ask about something, or to update them about things they probably already knew (and it wasn't just me that she did this to) were moments of human interaction for her. Holding a baby meant having some physical touch, even just for a few moments. I began to see her in a different light. Her motivations for the way she acted became clearer and my heart began to soften towards her. If there is one thing I know and understand, it is loneliness. You might think that with eight beautiful kids I could never be lonely, but you'd be wrong. Loneliness is one of my big challenges.
So I let her hold my youngest baby, and I didn't wait for her to ask or offer, I just handed the baby over. It was a little bit difficult for me to do, but afterwards I felt good about it. The baby didn't cry, she cooed and smiled, and I think that it made this woman feel loved.
I know this doesn't make me any kind of a saint. In reality I am a pretty rotten person for going a whole decade and not realizing this sooner. And I still find myself feeling annoyed by this person from time to time, but I am trying really hard to view her through a different lens and to realize that there are many lonely people all around. Sometimes they are doing everything they can to be noticed, and sometimes they are quiet about it, but they are everywhere. It would do us all some good to reach out from time and bridge those gaps between us. Give it a try...I dare you.


Carrot Jello said...

oh, all right. *sigh*

Sariah said...

Thank you for sharing. I loved this. It made me tear up. And think. I'm going to try to follow your example. :)

Nancy Face said...

Ohhh, noooo...now I feel guilty, because I really like my privacy too, and I can't stand talking on the phone any more than necessary!

Nancy Face said...

Did my comment get to you or disappear? Because it was too long to re-type, ha!