Monday, October 6, 2014

Parenting Advice from Strangers/Childless: Like Sex Advice from Celibate Clergy?

Years ago when I was pregnant, my mother tried to teach me to respond to complete strangers who offered unsolicited advice with, "I have an OB. I don't need any advice. Thank you."

She said that statement had a nicer ring than my go to, which at the time was, "Fuck yourself."

On one occasion I got creative, and told an unusually intrusive and obnoxious stranger in a pedicure chair what she should stick in her privates. Mom wasn't proud, but she laughed. That tale is here.

I foolishly thought the advice from random busy bodies would stop once we emerged from the pregnancy/new infant stage. Wrong.

A close friend of mine (incidentally one of the best moms I know, the kind who glows with happiness while four kids climb all over her, and makes running a big household look easy) lets her early and middle elementary aged children climb trees.

Not the outside of the Hancock Tower.


She's given up on counting the number of strangers, some nearly apoplectic, who come running up to alert her that her children are, indeed, up in trees, and who refuse to accept that as their mother, she's okay with this. She smiles sagely, thanks them for their concern, and watches her little monkeys climb higher.

Back in the dark ages, my mom let us run and play, not only in trees, but in the woods.

One day, when I was five and my brother was two, we took it upon ourselves to walk a path through the woods behind our house to visit neighbors who had just moved in. We rang the doorbell, introduced ourselves, and asked for a snack. My mom had no idea where we'd gone until we reported that Mrs. S was nice, and she gave us cookies and made us lemonade.

Her reaction: dial up Mrs. S on the old school rotary phone and apologize for the intrusion.

Back then, we passed for precocious. These days, my mom would probably end up on the nightly news. The village has gotten mighty paranoid.

I think every mother I know has started to walk away from a tantrum throwing toddler—the tried and true "I'm leaving now. Bye."—which in my experience has about a fifty to sixty per cent success rate in eliciting the desired behavior. Most of the time passersby smile knowingly.

Not always. The girlfriend who allows the tree climbing once walked fifty feet ahead of her screaming four-year-old on the sidewalk in the middle of the day and got a screaming lecture from a middle aged man that she was giving her child "permanent abandonment issues."

That time, she couldn't resist. She told him something along the lines of, "If you want to give me parenting advice, I'm going to give you some weight loss tips." (Apparently he was quite fat.)

A childless friend suggested the other day, that maybe the Grape needs more boundaries. (The Grape had picked up my phone without asking.) I snapped back that this friend has no business telling me how to raise my child.

I'm happy to discuss most subjects and most of my beliefs with friends, but I don't take mothering advice from the childless.

I view it on par with getting advice on improving one's sex life from a celibate priest.

That said, I get that it takes a village. I am grateful every day to be blessed with dozens of great women friends who have fallen down the Mommyland rabbit hole with me. I'm grateful for the moms at the playground, because we all keep an eye on each other's kids.

I'm grateful I have a mom I can call for advice when I'm out of ideas.

I'm grateful to live in a city where the emergency services show up in under two minutes when I call 911 because my baby is seizing.

But, for better or worse, I've started to view my day-to-day village as more of a sorority.

Nothing makes my blood boil like some previously unknown person holding forth on his or her "parenting philosophy" without invitation.

Pro tip to new-ish parent at park: Lecturing the moms who have known each other and each other's kids for years, about how you, a complete stranger, think we're disciplining our kids wrong does not get you and your kid invited to indoor play dates with wine and treats during the dead of winter.

I can see you believe you're being helpful. You're not. You're being a sanctimonious twit.

And by the way, while you're telling me how important it is never to raise one's voice, your kid is whacking someone in the face with a stick.

I don't have all the answers. Like my mom friends, I do the best I can. I know the Grape and I are lucky. Still, some days with a five-year-old are frustrating. Other moments are filled with such joy and wonder I want to freeze them forever.

Kind of like the above mentioned pedicure/colonoscopy incident.

And to prove I'm actually not all cranky this morning, I offer this moment from August:

I wish I could freeze that afternoon forever. Even though a stranger told me not to let him sit on the rocks (while I was four feet away).

1 comment:

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