Yesterday I spent most of the day at the children’s hospital – it turns out Birdy had tonsilitis.  And while everything went really well, I always find I’m particularly drained and exhausted after a day at the hospital.  So when I got home yesterday I did something I hardly ever do.  I went out for a walk by myself to recharge the batteries.

It was lovely just to have 20 minutes of peace and quiet, especially after a day of quite full-on caring for a sick kid.  But I had this really interesting moment where I was trying to cross the road at a busy roundabout.  It’s not actually a pedestrian crossing but one of those pedestrian islands.  Anyway, I just stood there for ages before I could get across the road.  And it occurred to me that for the past three years I’ve always have a pram or a toddler on tricycle and cars just stop and wave you across when they see you have a young child.  It was really bizarre to realize that without a pram, nobody stops for you.

I think that children and babies break down a lot of barriers.  If you got out with a baby you suddenly find yourself having sympathetic conversations with total strangers in lifts and toilet queues and parents’ rooms.  It usually just starts with a smile and a simple comment, like, ‘Oh he’s teething’.  Or ‘She looks tired’ and then suddenly you have this instant bond.  But it’s not just the mother’s club.  Often it’s grandparents or Aunties who comment as well.  They’ll say “Oh I’ve got a granddaughter that age and she does that too.” And if you add into the mix a fairy dress, a painted face or a big ice-cream, suddenly everybody’s smiling at you and making little comments.   I just think people are friendlier and more helpful to people with babies and young children.

What really got me thinking about how children can be an icebreaker was my day at the hospital.  If people are friendlier to children, you can double it when you’re talking about sick children.  Yesterday people were opening doors for me, offering to help with my bags, offering to watch my child while I went to the bathroom.  It wasn’t just one person, it happened repeatedly.  Normally in Sydney there just isn’t a culture of talking to strangers, let alone offering to help, but in a place full of sick kids, everyone’s suddenly the Good Samaritan.  I think it’s lovely that children have the capacity to bring people together and bring out the best of them.  It’s just a pity it took a bout of tonsilitis to experience it!

Have you experienced this kind of goodwill?  Do cars stop more readily when you’re pushing a pram?  Have total strangers offered to help you at the airport, train station or hospital?  Have you found yourself exchanging knowing smiles with other Mums or having conversations with strangers in the lift or the parents’ room? 

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