Every single parent among us knows the feeling of unsolicited advice.
It’s not always avoidable, especially when it’s Grandma telling you exactly how she parented some sixty years ago when your parents were young. There is no nice way to tell her that rubbing whiskey on your babe’s gums is not so perfectly acceptable anymore, so you’ll have to field those wacky tidbits of golden wisdom yourself.
Today, let’s talk about another kind of unsolicited advice, the kind evokes a response of teeth gritting, tongue biting, and general angst…
Unsolicited advice from absolute and total strangers.
I’m willing to bet that we’re all familiar with that special, exciting brand of it that comes from the massive group of parenting experts that seem to gather in your local Walmart or grocery store in coincidence with your every shopping trip.
It’s as though they have a sixth sense as to when to hold their meetings. I’ve yet to miss a single one.
These are the people from whom you get the soft eyed, pitying look when your child is crying and you’re trying desperately to calm him down.
My son will be five months old in the next week, and I’ve received every tip from ignoring him (which is difficult to do when you’re actually wearing this fleshy bundle so filled with apparent displeasure), to amber teething necklaces, to the shocking notion that I might ever try feeding him, and even the ludicrous suggestion that I spank him for crying.
At first, I tried to delicately decline these advances. I was bright eyed and full of naiveté, thinking that I could calmly explain our positions on everything from gentle parenting to our attempts at breastfeeding that ended in using formula.
I even believed that somewhere along the line, one of these helpful advisors would nod thoughtfully as if to say, “well, you did make this person, perhaps you’ve given thought to why it is you do what you do”.
Needless to say, those warm, Oxytocin filled first days ended like a trainwreck. I got indescribably nasty with strangers who felt the need to parent my child for me, getting very defensive over them questioning my choices.
This too was a short lived phase.
Now, I allow it to roll freely off my back. But not without the aid of a beautiful deflection tactic they call sarcasm.
“Why, no, I would never have thought to feed him. Are we supposed to do that?”
It’s a beautiful technique when topped with a bright and genuine smile, so as not to appear threatening. Except for that one mentally unstable woman who suggested I spank my infant for crying – she got my inside voice version of Mommy Rage.
But in all other situations, sarcasm is your friend.
If you’re currently on the brink of becoming a parent, don’t think we’re ignoring your plight. You’ve likely experienced your own limited edition version of this fabulous prize. Pregnant women hear countless anecdotes and suggestions about every single detail of their lives during those often uncomfortable and stressful nine months of their lives.
They tell you in detail about how so-and-so’s cousin had a water birth and it was fabulous, the dangers of the dreaded red M&M’s, how you shouldn’t be lifting that loaf of bread in the supermarket, and so on and so forth until you end up a blubbering or rage filled mess because you’d rather no one look at or speak to you, let alone tell you how to make it through this stage in your life where you’ve become the newest planet in the solar system.
Or at least that was my experience.
It’s not new, nor is it a dying fad; the childless, the unknown, and the Mommy Gurus of the world will almost certainly offer their little pearls of wisdom to me, you, and the rest of us while we try and navigate the hellish arena of the grocery store or general public with our babes in tow. There are many great methods of dealing with this and the stress that it causes, and you might even end up with a story.
The kind you take to your blog and write about, the kind you share over a vent session with a friend or loved one, the kind that makes you feel like part of the club.