It comes out of nowhere. One day when you finally feel like you’ve got this parenting thing down and discovered your own unique child-rearing groove you hear it. Almost always unasked for, it tends to be said in a smug tone. You can’t ignore it yet you can’t bear to listen to it either. Enter: the dreaded unsolicited parenting advice giver.
Who is yours? A mom? A best friend? A stranger in the bread aisle? I won’t make you admit it publicly. But we all know them and they can be hard to evade.
I had this realization a few weeks ago when a mother decided to bestow her superior knowledge on me. I was pushing my son on a swing when I was commanded to “go fast” “mommy big push”. I knew that my daredevil wasn’t going to tolerate a gentle sway for long so gave him the mother of all pushes.
This mother’s face looked like I had just sent my 2-year-old on an airplane for his first solo skydive attempt. She sternly told me, “You’re pushing him too high!” Funny, I thought that too high might mean my child was propelled to China due to said excessive push or he went all Superman and flew right away with the birds in the sky.
My usual response is a feigned “bless your heart” smile and a comment about how he is just fine. I tend to employ a live and let live attitude towards others. Let me tell you most people do not follow the same suit.
In the past couple months alone I have heard the following. Maybe they hit home for you too:
“Oh no! You should never let him run in the house. He is going to fall and get hurt.”
“Don’t ever let him eat hot dogs. They are the number one choking hazard for children”.
“He really should be napping and sleeping through the night by now you know? What are you doing wrong?”
“You aren’t feeding him enough.”
For the record, my son is 90-some percentile in height and weight and is allowed to run in the house and loves hot dogs! While these comments may have bothered me in the past I now remember that I am his mom and as long as he is happy, healthy, and his doctor isn’t concerned about anything then I don’t need to be worried either.
So is it really well-meaning advice, an anxiety filled plea or just an opportunity to make someone else feel like a superior parent? I sadly don’t have the answer for that, but I have finally decided that the only advice I am going to take from here on out will come from within.
It kind of goes without saying that certain bits of advice I cherish and have used successfully with my son. I have learned most of what I know from other moms, my family, and even online parenting groups. But you know what? I almost always asked for it and needed it in that moment. I was open to it.
Maybe the crux of this is about asking someone if they want to hear your advice or if they just need you to listen to them vent without talking back. It is astounding how many times I want to give this life-changing advice and tell someone all about this parenting hack that I just know will work for them when all they really need is someone to simply listen.
So to all the unwanted parenting advice givers out there maybe we should stop the judging and start the conversation of asking first. We all can learn so much from each other and it can be done in a way both parties benefit. If I’m trying to teach my toddler how to ask permission and take turns maybe I should be the best role model.