Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Whenever I post parenting tips on this blog, I figure that most of the (few) people who read it think, “Oh, yeah? What makes you so dad-gum smart?”
I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not.
I am a parenting expert of sorts, but only on my own kids, and only up until today. Tomorrow will bring a whole new set of challenges.
So I try, when talking with other parents — especially new ones — to temper my blathering with a line something like, “It works for me, but every parent has a different style.” Which is true, even in the same household, even your bestest friend. And no one style is right every time. We’re all bozos on this bus, eh?
That brings me to my current rant: Why do some people feel the need to hurl unwanted advice, especially at new parents and pregnant women? I mean, come on, we’re already nervous and self-doubting enough, right?
I was told at different times this weekend that:
1) I shouldn’t pick my baby up just because he was crying.
(He had just toppled into the edge of a metal lawn chair, which left a nasty red mark on the side of his head.) “You’ll spoil him!” she said when I scooped him up for a cuddle. This comment came from a woman whose grown son is the epitome of a mama’s boy, so I guess she’d know.
2) From someone who tasted the Gerber Veggie Puff on my 9-month-old’s high-chair tray: “Those taste horrible! You should just give him Cheerios!”
But I like to rotate his stock of snacks among Kix, Veggie Puffs and the time-honored Cheerios, just so he doesn’t get bored— we’ve got a lot of snacking time ahead of us. My son happens to love the crunchy little stars. And no one asked her to eat one, so there.
(Veggie puff ingredients: Rice flour, oat flour, wheat flour, wheat starch, sugar, sweet potato powder, tri- and dicalcium phosphate, natural flavor, annatto color, tocopherols (vitamin E), zinc sulfate and electrolytic iron)
(Cheerio ingredients: Whole Grain Oats , Modified Corn Starch , Corn Starch , Sugar , Salt , Calcium Carbonate , Oat Fiber , Tripotassium Phosphate , Wheat Starch , Vitamin E Mixed Tocopherols - Added to Preserve Freshness , Vitamins and Minerals , Iron Mineral Nutrients , Zinc Mineral Nutrients , Vitamin C Sodium Ascorbate , Niacinamide a B Vitamin , Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine Hydrochloride , Vitamin B2 Riboflavin , Vitamin B1 Thiamin Mononitrate , Vitamin A Palmitate , Folic Acid a B Vitamin , Vitamin B12 , Vitamin D)
3) My 10-year-old son shouldn’t be playing football because there’s too much risk of injury.
Don’t you think I know? But that advice came from someone who didn’t have to deal with the many hurt feelings my son endured when he was one of two boys in his whole class last year who didn’t play football. He was basically ostracized. It was a hell of a year. He wants to give it a go, so we’re supporting his effort.
4) It’s no big deal if my son misses football practices or a game now and then.
However, we don’t raise no quitters! (Bad grammar employed for emphasis.) He’s old enough and responsible enough to know that other people count on you when you make a commitment to join a team. And when you quit — or don’t give your all — you let yourself down as well. My husband and I believe this important life lesson is taught far too infrequently these days. So if he’s able, he’ll be puttin’ on the pads till the final whistle of the season. And beyond, if he’s having fun at it.
I was able to hold my tongue in all the uncomfortable episodes of advice-flinging. Sometimes I’m not so diplomatic.
So, parents everywhere, please think before you speak. Don’t tell a petrified pregnant lady that she MUST breastfeed for a whole year or that labor really DOES feel like pulling your lower lip over your head.
Don’t tell a new parent that Catholic school is the ONLY way to go if you want the best for your child.
Let us learn from our own mistakes. And we’ll try to learn from yours, too.
Got any examples of unwanted advice you’d like to share?