Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers
Once they spot the baby there’s no escape.
They work themselves up from gasps and oohs and titters, gradually building the courage to creep forward. Soon they are crowding me, reaching out to squeezing cheeks and fat little baby legs. And then they strike. They smile at the baby. They hold out their hands. She smiles and they scoop her up, covering her in nose-kisses*.
Darling Man thinks this is normal behaviour. He scoffed at my early nervousness, then giggled in disbelief when I told him that people have been known to steal babies in Western countries.
“Naw,” he said, dismissively. “Vietnamese people just love babies.”
It still takes me by surprise, this Asian baby-love. I feel it less in Singapore but it’s still here. In Vietnam, babies are revered. In Singapore, in the right circumstances, they are enjoyed like a sneaky treat.
When I was at university I worked as a waitress at a family restaurant. Kids were a pain in the butt. They whined and complained, spilled their softdrink and dropped their chips on the floor. Sometimes they ran around shouting. Babies could be ignored if they weren’t screaming. Mothers were given distainful looks.
Later I traveled for work and I encountered kids again. At airports, where mothers and their offspring were treated like putrid liquid leaking from a bag of four-day-old garbage. The sight of an infant would cause the nostrils of non-encumbered passengers and airline staff to flare and mouths to pucker into the shape of a cat’s bum. I would emit a deep internal sigh if I was seated next to a child. (Although I usually had a great time clowning around with them.)
That’s the kind of attitude I expected once I became a breeder. As well as giving up my carefree life, I was expecting to be shunned by most of society. I feel helpless in the face of this Asian baby devotion. Sure, I think she’s wonderful, but that’s my job.
Our beautiful bundle is a seasoned traveler, taking her first international flight at nine weeks old. I was very stressed about the flight, especially after the Vietnamese embassy lost our passports, which meant we had to delay our flight, which meant we were traveling without Darling Man who had to leave Australia before his visa expired.
But the flight went well. The baby slept for five hours, her longest-ever stretch. She probably would have slept longer but I woke her up, just to check there was nothing wrong. Then the airline lost some of our luggage, leaving me with one change of clothes in a country where I can barely fit my arm into the waistband of a pair of “big size” jeans.
Since then we’ve done a fair bit of zipping around with the bundle. Vietnam to Singapore at six months. Back to Vietnam for her first birthday. A weekend away in Indonesia. Back to Vietnam for a wedding.
And in every location — the baby snatchers.
The king of the baby snatchers lurks at our local pub. Robert, the pub manager, is such a devoted fan of Miss M that he will chase us down the street to snatch the baby and then take her inside to smile at his staff. He’s so disappointed when he sees me marching past without Miss M. “I have to go to work,” I tell him. “Bring her tonight,” he says. Sometimes we do. We just stroll down the road, walk into the pub, hand over the baby for a while, then take her home again.
There’s another set of snatchers further down the road, at the chicken rice restaurant. My presence, alone, breaks the hearts of the staff who loiter on the footpath waiting for customers. A family outing that takes us past their restaurant, not to their restaurant, nearly kills them.
In Vietnam, the biggest baby snatchers are waitresses. They crowd around discussing the cuteness of the baby, the length of her eyelashes. If they spot her dimples, they nearly start screaming. They hoist her up and carry her about the restaurant as if she’s a religious relic. Upstairs to show the other staff. Next door to show off to their friends. Her smiles are greeted with roars of approval, as if Vietnam has just scored a goal in a SEA Cup match.
Those are the positives of living and traveling in Asia with a baby. There’s a whole new world of interaction. It’s not terribly deep or meaningful, and it really does make me feel like I’m just a manager of a rock star.
The downside of traveling with a baby is that your time is no longer your own. The baby decides when you wake up. You can’t sleep until she finally drops. Babies need constant attention and outings require a lot of planning. If you’re a worrier like me, it’s even stressful when they’re asleep.
But being a new parent is relentless wherever you are. Traveling alone has its pros and cons, traveling as a couple has its pros and cons. I’m glad I’ve done solo travel and couple travel before taking on with-a-baby travel. Darling Man and I know how airports work. We are old hands at budget airlines. We’re used to planning trips, packing and waiting around. We don’t always know how the baby will react to these things but so far she’s been a pro.
The most important part of traveling with a baby is to be prepared. Take an extra bottle, extra nappies, medicine, dummies, wipes, a change of clothes and toys. (We forgot toys for one international flight. The trip out was bearable because the air hostesses were lovely. On the trip back, the dragon-lady air hostesses made the entire two hours in the air a nightmare.)
My advice — DON’T listen to your husband when he puts on his “what a waste of money” scowl when you discover a baby sitting service. Open your wallet and get the damn sitter. Catch up on sleep. Be a couple again.
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This post is part of a group writing project by family travel bloggers.
Check out these related posts for the low-down of traveling with kids of all ages:
Take Your Child to Work by Globetrotting Mama
The Highs and Lows of Traveling with a Teen and a Tween by Wander Mom
The Age of Perfection by Around the World in Easy Ways
Traveling With Children – Which One To Leave Home? by Snaps and Blabs
What’s it Like to Travel with a 3 Year Old Girl by Tripping Mom
Travelling with Two Children Under 6 – Insanity or a Great Idea? by Our Travel Lifestyle
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Traveling Around the World With a 5-Year-Old by Rider By My Side
The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole by Almost Fearless
Traveling With Your Kids – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly by Eastside Curry
The World is Our Playground by Got Passport
Which is the Best Age for Travel? by Family On Bikes
Disclaimer: I am not sure all babies recieve this type of attention when traveling through Asia. It’s possible that our baby really is the cutest baby in the world with special powers that turn otherwise normal people into baby snatchers.
* Noses kisses are not unique to Vietnam but that’s where I first experienced them. Instead of planting a kiss with the lips, noses are squashed against the skin. An inhalation creates a vacuum inside the nose, which makes a strange kissy-sniffy kind of noise when the nose is lifted away slightly. It’s not as gross as it sounds and it’s difficult for Westerners to do because our nose cartlige is too hard.
10 years ago