Babies as Customers

Josie Leavitt - August 29, 2016

One of the first outings for many newborns is a trip to the bookstore. I’ve seen this time and time again. Whether folks are new parents or seasoned parents, there is comfort in a visit to the bookstore. I love this. It sets a pattern very early in a child’s life, that the bookstore is a haven, a fun and safe place to spend some time. When a new customer comes in having just moved to town and had a baby (there seem to be a lot of them at the moment), the first time at the bookstore is a very important trip.
Of course it should go without saying that families with little ones need to feel welcome at the bookstore. No one wants to shop at a place where they feel like staffers are gritting their teeth until the crying baby leaves. Sometimes babies cry. They can be fussy and cranky. They are babies. This happens. But as bookstore staff, it is our job to make the family comfortable. New parents are often worried about that first trip out with their little one, and if they choose the bookstore as a stop, they shouldn’t have to worry if their kid is crying.
Everyone on staff loves babies. There are times when I will offer to hold a baby so that the parent can sign their credit card slip without too much juggling. Even David, our college-aged staffer, loves the little ones, making silly faces or just exclaiming how cute they are. Babies aren’t just cute, they are future readers. And people will (hopefully) be reading to them for years, so it’s important that the board book section be not only stocked with amazing read-alouds, but also comfortable for a family. We have a soft, colorful area rug in the board book section that invites lap-time reading and cozy play.  As babies get older they explore their little world, toddling about the store looking at books. This usually means that they are taking books off the shelves, and as long as they are not ripping jackets, I’m happy to let them explore the store. Most parents are fabulous about being diligent in helping protecting the books.
One of my all-time favorite baby moments happened a few weeks ago. Most babies like me because they can tell that I really enjoy them. I make silly faces and weird noises. I usually get a shy smile and then head back to work. But there was this one baby, Finn, who thought my weird noise (I do a mean horse imitation) was hilarious and he just started belly laughing. A six month old baby who belly laughs feels like a gift. This little guy was so delightfully joyful it was infectious. He and I started laughing, then others noticed and soon we had all stopped working and were just watching this kid laugh. I ripped up paper and he just thought that was hilarious. The mom shared that Finn was a joyful, easygoing child and I said how lucky she was to have such a great kid.
To have such truly joyful moments at work is a really wonderful thing and one of the bonuses of working at a bookstore.

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