Blessing Babies

Maybe this only happens to myself and my friends because we live in a small town and are kind of local celebrities, but I just have to ask if it applies to others.

I’ve found that parents of younger children like us to “bless their babies”. What I mean is, if I’m in the drugstore, they will corner me, literally put this terrified infant or toddler in my face, waving its unwilling hand and saying in a squeaky voice, “HELLO TEACHER. HOW ARE YOUUUUU? HELLO. HELLO.” It’s really no problem if I’m just passing them on the street, where saying a quick hello is fine, but out with my friends, in mid-conversation, this interruption is most unwelcome.

I occasionally also encounter these people in my building, especially in the elevator where there’s no escape. I feel really bad for the poor kids, who are too young to understand what’s going on, except that they are being thrown into a funny-looking stranger’s face and that they don’t like it. And apparently the parents aren’t just after a friendly response; if I speak to the child in Chinese, the parents insist on squeaking back in English. Often I will also see parents whose children have been taught English encouraging their children to speak to me on trains, etc. This is fine if the child wants to, but I actually saw one mother slap her little boy (who looked only 7 or 8) because he didn’t want to approach me and interrupt my conversation. I can understand them wanting their kids to practice the language, but wouldn’t this result in bad feelings instead of a more positive attitude?

Does this happen in bigger places, too, or am I alone in my phenomenon? Am I doing something wrong? I have to act like a clown in my younger classes half the time as it is; am I doing something wrong by acting like a normal person going about my business and not using copious doses of TPR? This would be even more frustrating if I weren’t an English teacher, I imagine…