Strange attraction

Twice in the past week, Maddi has — quite uncharacteristically — made a scene while we dined out. Normally, we can take the baby anywhere and she will remain fairly jolly the whole time. Last month, we went to a steakhouse after her 8 p.m. bedtime and lingered over dinner until 11 or so. Maddi required absolutely no attention from us whatsoever and showered radiant toothless smiles at the surrounding tables.

Struggling to figure out why our darling daughter, during normal waking hours and after having been fed and changed, decided to shriek and attempt escape from the constraints of her high chair, Chris came to a startling conclusion:

Maddi thrives on the attention of complete strangers. Sure, Mommy and Daddy are great, but there’s nothing better than having random people come up and say, “Ohh, what big blue eyes you have. Aren’t you the cutest thing?” upon which you smile and flap and receive cheek pinches and bacteria-laden finger-shakes and more cooing. Well, there’s one thing better, but those mean ol’ parents have forbidden chewing on shopping carts.

And it’s not as though she doesn’t have throngs of worshippers. Everywhere we go, we get stopped every 20 seconds by people telling us she’s the cutest baby they’ve ever seen. Maddi, ham that she is, eats this all up and smiles extra big and bright when she sees a strange face coming her way. The past few months, she has been doing this for the camera as well (which, combined with her devoted fan base, makes me worry more than a little that our wee one is under the illusion she is some sort of Hollywood star).

Any stranger will do, even a fake one. Even a possibly murderous one. The other day, I was carrying her from the room after nursing her while watching the Biography Channel, and she grinned gummily at the television as we passed. I looked to see whose giant face she was beaming at, and lo and behold, our little princess was bestowing a beautiful, sunny smile on none other than O.J. Simpson.

So when we’re in an empty restaurant with not a strange face in sight (not even a televised one), what’s a baby to do? Try to wriggle out of the high chair and roll down the aisle in search of fresh meat, that’s what! Of course, given our pesky hangups over filthy restaurant floors and roaming small children, Maddi is not allowed to launch her quest for new people to charm. Thus, Chris has hypothesized, she becomes irate and begins yelling and trying to extract herself from her tiny wooden pillory.

It’s a pretty good theory. Both times she’s pitched a fit in a restaurant, it’s been during a “dead” time when there has been nobody for our little darling to smile at. And we’ve already established that, the noisier the place and the more strangers there are, the happier our cherub becomes.

We all know she’s a friendly baby, but her need for adoring fans is bordering on the ridiculous. At her age, stranger anxiety is supposed to kick in, but for now, as long as Mommy or Daddy is nearby, Maddi is happy — nay, eager — to meet and greet perfect strangers.

Even televised ones who probably killed a few people.

And here is a 32-week-old Maddi smiling especially for you, her charter fan club! (And waving to boot!)

And another two of Maddi’s first time in the snow.

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