Few Things Annoy Me More Than Unsolicited Parenting Advice
One of the constants in parenting that applies to every single person with kids, is that at some point, someone who has absolutely no business doing so – will give you a piece of unsolicited advice. This happens quite frequently in New York, and I chalk it up to the fact that parents in New York City are a very exposed bunch. We don’t have cars to shuttle our kids around in, we live in apartments so we see our neighbors often, and we typically schlep ourselves and our kids on foot for at least a portion of whatever trip we are making. So that means, we are shoulder to shoulder with our cohabitants. And for some reason that also means that these cohabitants feel entitled to giving advice…even when you don’t ask for it.
For example, there was the time that the woman that lived down the hall told me my daughter looked pale (she has very fair Irish skin) and then felt her forehead and told me that she felt warm (the kid radiates body heat) and that I should turn around and go back to my apartment to take care of her, instead of taking her to the grocery store with me to get milk and eggs.
My daughter was neither sick nor feverish, but that didn’t matter.
And there are always the, “That baby should have a hat on!” comments, to which I usually respond to by waving my hand that is holding the hat that my child has ripped off her head 27 times.
But this past weekend took the cake for the most unsolicited and inappropriate comments made about my parenting.
My daughter and I had just finished up one of her gymnastics classes, and I had put her in the front pack baby carrier which may seem odd because she is two, but the subways weren’t running properly and we had a loooooooong walk ahead of us with lots of stairs. Anyway, we got on a fairly crowded subway at about 10:50am, and I looked around for a seat. A kind person gave theirs up, so I began the task of unstrapping my toddler from my chest and putting her on the subway seat while the train was in motion.
If you are a parent and have tried to do something like this, you know that it is not easy and you will forgive the fact that when I unstrapped her, she bumped the back of her head on the plastic subway chair. She didn’t even notice, and I apologized by saying, “Oh love, I’m so sorry. Give mommy a second and I will give you a snack and some milk.”
That is when some overly Botoxed, under-experienced, middle-aged man said to no one in particular, “Did you just see that woman SLAM that baby’s head into that subway chair?!?!?!”
I bit my tongue, but not before shooting him a look complete with an eye roll. We had a long subway ride ahead of us and I didn’t know how long I’d have to share a relatively small space with this guy, so I stuck with the non-verbals. Then the person sitting next to my daughter got off the subway and I sat down and handed her an all-natural banana chocolate chip snack bar and a cup of milk. At some point, I noticed this guy giving me looks and paying extremely close attention to what my daughter was eating…which I found odd, but if you have ever been on the NYC subway, you know that this is not the oddest behavior you will witness. Not by a long shot.
Finally, as he walks to exit the subway at the next stop, he turns around and says to me, “Chocolate for breakfast?!?!?! Yea…that’s great parenting!”
Now a number of thoughts flooded my head all at once:
1) Anyone that has ever had a child knows that 11am IS NOT BREAKFAST TIME! In fact, it’s just 30 minutes shy of her standard lunchtime.
2) Despite the fact that the snack bar had small chocolate chips in it, it tasted like a cross between cardboard and banana nut bread – which means it had to be nutritious.
3) My daughter is in the 7thpercentile for weight, so the kid needs as many calories as I can get into her…sometimes, on really tough days, Goldfish crackers, some slices of cheese, and a cup of milk are an acceptable breakfast in my house. Something is better than nothing.
4) And WHO THE F*CK ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO FEED MY DAUGHTER?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Before I could even say something, the sweet toothless, homeless man sitting across from us said, “That looks like a healthy snack to me!” And I responded with a smile, “Yes. It is. And people need to learn to mind their own business… for the love of god.”
The thing is, even though I seriously knew that there was no truth in what this guy said and that his commentary was beyond unfounded, it still really bugged me for days. Anyone that has been in the parenting trenches knows how hard it can be to keep it together, and the last thing any of us needs is criticism from strangers.