Dear Mary

Dear Mary: I don’t want perfumed people to hold my baby

Plus: the mounting costs of having children’s school friends to stay; and how to probe politely about the neighbours’ party

15 August 2015

9:00 AM

15 August 2015

9:00 AM

Q. Is there a polite way of not letting someone hold your baby? I love giving mine to people to hold but I don’t like it when he gets handed back to me stinking of someone’s perfume. Is there a kind way of keeping him away from anyone I don’t like the smell of, ideally without giving my son a bad reputation?
— Name and address withheld

A. Everyone will agree that the smell of clean baby trumps any other and that such a smell should never be overwhelmed. But there is no way of politely preventing handling by the over-perfumed. You must put up with it. After all, babies are changed three times a day so you won’t have to suffer for long and it is a small price to pay for the joy you grant to the handler. But why do you know over-perfumed people in the first place?

Q. I was interested to read your letter regarding children tipping. There was no one to tip in the self-catering holiday cottage I rented in Cornwall last week but I would welcome your guidance on another matter. When you invite school friends of your children to stay without their parents for a beach holiday, is it up to you as the host to cover all their expenses for hiring wetsuits, surfboards, ferries to Padstow and other necessities? My son had three friends to stay and although the boys were charming and helpful with washing up and playing with younger children, they all arrived empty-handed, and the costs mounted up. Am I right in thinking that the parents should have sent them with money?
— Name and address withheld

A. The parents probably needed to be prompted. While emailing or phoning to confirm arrangements, you could have added, ‘I reckon they will need no more than around £20 [say] per day to cover the costs of hiring equipment and so on.’ No parent will mind being reminded in this way, or think you unreasonable or inhospitable. After all, you are not charging rent or child-minding fees.

Q. Neighbours, who I don’t know that well but would like to know better, told me earlier in the year that they would be giving a big party in October. I see no reason for them to have mentioned it to me if they were not going to invite me, but I can’t be sure they have not changed their minds or had to cull numbers. My problem is that my mother wants me to take her on holiday to Croatia in October and obviously I need to book it. It would be sod’s law for me to book the holiday to coincide with this party. How can I find out when it is without seeming pushy?
— Name withheld, Suffolk

A. Invite your most interesting friends to stay with you in October. Then ring the neighbours. Say (for example), ‘I’ve got Barry and Lizzie Humphries coming to stay in October and they’d love to meet you. Can you come to dinner? They haven’t finalised a date yet but what weekends are you free?’

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  • Callipygian

    ‘the smell of clean baby’: when it comes out of the bath, maybe. The baby homes I’ve known always have a vague odour of nappy and what goes along with nappies. Ick.

    • Ambientereal

      This person is probably extremely sensitive to (good) odours because her nose is too accustomed to the bad ones (nappy). I have a very bad opinion of people who dislike parfums, and in this case I don´t believe that the baby becomes “parfumed” only by being held by a person that wear parfum. Personally I love to take a shower and wear a soft parfum. It relaxes me a lot.

      • Callipygian

        Well, the world is divided into those that like ‘smellies’ of any kind, and those that prefer fragrance-free in general. I belong to the latter group (occasionally I’ll put fragrance in my homemade hand creams and lotions, but it’s subtle and of course of my choosing!). Stayed with my m-i-law once: her perfume was so overpowering (she clearly used too much) that not only did the whole apartment reek of the stuff, I found myself opening the door for some fresh oxygen!

  • jim

    I’ve noticed that some mothers almost insist on leaving dirty nappies around as a way of testing others, (usually men) .They do this to see if we complain and when we do they can attack us as unfeeling cruel tyrants ,because of course it’s the most natural thing in the world and we were all babies once…and so on. Sometimes other women are their co-conspirators. I have learned to surreptitiously dispose of the offending material while the females are busy elsewhere and more than once I’ve had a mother ask what happened to the soiled if she wanted to save them as mementos…Women are insane.

    • Feminister

      Oh Gawd, not everything is a message to you, you nutter.

      • jim

        It’s a very female thing to do….Women do this sort of thing a lot….Guys often have to speculate about what the real issue might be .Women always expect men to know what is annoying them.

  • Trofim

    I’ve taught my daughter (6 months) to smoke a pipe. That eclipses all unpleasant odours.