When I was pregnant with my first, I assumed I would be a loving, but strict, parent. I wasn’t going to let my baby rule my life. Oh no, I was going to be the one in control and making the decisions. I had no intention of raising a tiny dictator.
Then I actually had my baby.
And most of what I thought I would do went out the window. My first baby was fussy, hard to keep content, nursed all the time, and fought sleep as hard as he could. Needless to say, I quickly changed my thoughts of “I will do whatever I want, the baby can just tag along!” to “I can’t possibly do that! The baby needs a nap and if he doesn’t get it, I’ll pay for it later!”
And that baby grew up into a demanding toddler, then a high-spirited preschooler (apparently their temperaments don’t change). So I learned to be more flexible, to let some things go and to pick my battles. Because otherwise I would spend all day chasing after my kid and yelling at him.
Unfortunately, while I think I have good reasons for making some of the parenting decisions I make, lots of strangers feel the need to tell me otherwise.
Older woman in the grocery store: “I wouldn’t let him bang those bottles around if I was you.”
Older man in the warehouse store: “Sit down! Sit down! Sit down!”
Woman passing us on the sidewalk: “That baby should have a hat on, he’s cold.”
I get a lot of unsolicited advice.
When strangers (people I’ve never seen before) make these types of comments, I’m usually stunned. Are they seriously talking to me? Do they really feel the need to parent my child instead of, I don’t know, letting me do my job? Sometimes when I get rude comments from people I’m in the middle of talking to my son and asking him to do exactly what they are asking. Other times, it just doesn’t matter and it’s my choice to do what I think is best for my child.
I always wish that I had made some witty comment back to these folks. Something that would make them realize how rude they were. How no one (really, NO ONE) wants a stranger to give input or advice.
I realize most of these people are not parents with young children. That they are looking back on the decisions they made as parents with a buffer of time, which conveniently wipes out the moments they weren’t perfect. Or maybe they just forgot that little kids don’t follow instructions well. Or they don’t remember that a 3 year old does not have the ability to behave the same way a 13 year old does.
But every kid is not perfect all the time. And having strangers shoot me dirty looks or deliver some snarky comment does not turn me into a different parent or magically convert my son’s temperament into a more calm, compliant type.
What I really want to say to these people is that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m trying to give my son the freedom to be himself and to help him grow into a wonderful adult. To do that, I certainly don’t need him to do what YOU think I should do. I think he’s pretty wonderful how he is. And I will be exactly the type of parent I think I should be so he can continue to be exactly who he is.