Sitting next to me was a woman, probably in her early 60's, with one of those chihuahua type dogs that you have to carry around.
She was talking to the dog like one would to a baby or toddler.
At one point the dog, who was balancing precariously on her lap turned to give her one of those looks that small kids give you when they want something.
The woman understood this signal (as indeed I did, to my utter amusement).
She took the dog in her arms and placed it on her chest just like you would a baby.
In this position the dog was facing me.
The look on its face said something to the tune of 'mission accomplished'.
The whole thing made me laugh out loud.
The woman did not seem surprised at my laughter and she joined me in laughing.
The dog was playing the role of 'baby' very well and the woman was playing the role of 'Mum' equally well.
Down to a tee.
And before long, I found myself playing the role of 'Auntie'...
Cooing at the dog, asking Mum its name, its favourite foods, etc.
Ever since my hamster collapsed from exhaustion with all the spinning it sometimes does, there seems to be a new one rising out from the ashes like a phoenix.
And this new one has babies on the brain.
I realise now that the only ages where I did not have a 'baby substitute' of some sort were my teenage years. From birth to around age 11, I had a teddy bear. And since my mid-twenties I have had a similar 'cuddle-bunny'.
And my bed has never been empty since ;-)
And during 'the gap years' I was at the peak of my babysitting career.
For real babies and children, that is.
There was the 5-year old boy I was piano teacher to for a while when I was around 15. But as his Mum (a neighbour) was a single Mum who worked two jobs, I was also his babysitter for long periods of time. This was the first non-relative I was 'responsible' for, and I took my newfound role very seriously indeed!
I studied my young protégé intensely. He was exceptionally bright, and very musically talented, and already at 5, I could see that he was capable of becoming a better pianist than I could ever aspire to should he choose that path in life.
Sadly neither he nor I actually became pianists, but we shared a common passion.
This boy was my first 'baby'. I felt a real connection to him.
He was, like me, an introvert. So we connected in ways only introverts know how. In silence :-)
At 17, I was asked to fill in for a (maternity leave) music teacher at the Catholic elementary school allied to my high school (by virtue of 'sharing' some of the nuns from the local convent), for their end of year concert. To my surprise, I found I was far more interested in relating to the kids than preparing them for their concert.
And I was prouder than any parent at said end-of-year concert when they pulled off a great (singing) performance with me accompanying them on the piano.
What I find fascinating now is that I was far more interested in the younger age groups than the older ones (I had to work with several classes/age groups).
I find it fascinating now only because I notice more and more the way men relate to youngsters. And how much it differs from how I relate to them.
With a male friend, I once went to visit an older cousin who had teenaged children. At this cousin's house at the time was her younger sister, who had babies/toddlers.
I ignored the teenagers and made a 'bee-line' for the babies. My male friend headed in the direction of the teenagers never to be seen again.
During the course of the day I joined my friend and my elder cousin (as my guest I felt obliged to ensure he wasn't isolated) carrying one of the babies in my arms.
I made the tactical error (I now recognise it as such!) of offering the baby to my male friend, and watched in amusement as he almost recoiled in horror :-)
I now realise I was treating him as I would a female friend.
I always remember a scene from the British equivalent of 'The Bachelor' many years ago where 'The Bachelor' was asked whether he wanted children.
His eyes lit up as he recounted what he would like to do with his future son - play football, go bike riding, etc.
Sure, he wanted a baby. But he couldn't wait for that baby to grow up so he could do stuff with it.
That made me think.
We are ALL (male and female) born into the 'parent trap'. Kinda like we are all born into 'original sin' according to Catholic teaching.
We all want to be parents on some level. Whether we achieve that biologically or through adoption or through mentoring other people's kids, it's all the same.
On a purely evolutionary level, that is in fact why we are all here. To leave behind our genes before we make our exit from this world.
Whilst women's natural nurturing qualities make them excellent at managing the smallest children, men's natural leadership and adveturous nature makes them ideal for relating to older kids.
So to generalise rather broadly, a woman's domain is the baby, and a man's domain is the football-ready seven-year-old :-)
This is why where dog ownership is concerned, men have the big bulldog/German Shepherd types whereas the women have the baby-like chihuahua types.
Not to say that men can't relate to babies or that women can't relate to older kids. That would be absurd.
But I almost made this mistake myself.
In my friend's refusal to take a baby in his arms, I was (needlessly, looking back) confused.
This is a man I knew wanted and liked kids.
And here he was refusing to hold a baby.
That to me was not just confusing, it was a possible red flag.
Because he was a very good friend (cough, cough).
I failed to notice that he was in fact in his element with kids.
They just happened to be older kids.
And I am sure he was baffled that I seemed to be distancing myself from the older kids with whom one could have an actual conversation :-)
Preferring to have a 'non-conversation' connection thing with a baby, that didn't involve words normally found in language.
In related news, I note how Danny relates to his beloved Brody not as some 18-week old, but more like an 18-year old.
And yet Danny sees Brody as his son in much the same way as that little chihuahua was that woman's 'son'.
But a world of difference in how these two 'parents' treated their progeny :-)
I find it so fascinating that everything men and women do can be traced back to their blooming differences!
But, as ever, I still say, Vive la différence!
And when it comes to parenting, I can see clearly now why it is so important to have both. Most people have their mother, so the nurturing thing is a given (though of course it must never be taken for granted either). But the contribution of father has no name. And since it does not appear to have an impact on the immediate survival of the kid, it is deemed unnecessary - undesirable, even.
I for one am glad I learned this lesson now. That's one less mistake I am likely to make in the future.
Sure, I am pretty sure I shall screw up in other ways.
But this is one screw-up I would really hate to make.
Sure, a man can do this:
But he prefers this: