Those in glass houses should not give parenting advice

I have a neighbor who makes running commentary on how I am raising my children. Not the one right next door, the veteran mother who has raised four children and is now the grandmother to many more, nope. Just a little further down the block, riding her bike to my house in her Barbie pink bike helmet, that’s not just a color description it’s actually Barbie. Yep, she’s seven and, to add to her lack of experience based on age, she is also an only child. Her barrage of, “I don’t think it is safe for him to have that….”, “He really shouldn’t be eating in here…”, “It’s kind of late for them to be out…”, makes me insane and, for her sake, I bite my tongue…hard. Her advice (coming from who knows where because it has absolutely no basis in reality) makes me think, though, about the constant analysis of  parenting that I do, intentionally or not, daily.

I usually do not have a problem with unsolicited advice: if it is good I put it in my back pocket, if it is ridiculous, I smile and say “Thank you”. There have only been two occasions where I thought someone crossed the line with my child and one involved another parent slapping my childs arm at a birthday party. That man should be very thankful that the nature of the event held me back from lighting him up! Otherwise, I can’t say that I am not guilty of doling out unwanted wisdom to those around me (although, I do always try to put in a caveat that they can take it or leave it). I guess where others see judgment interwoven in unsolicited advice I really just see someone who is trying to help out, whether it is tactful or not.  I think that comparing, contrasting, observing, taking notes is part of developing who you are as a parent and there is a VERY broad spectrum of parenting out there to learn from.

Take for instance the woman I saw the other day feeding her toddler Cheetos for breakfast. I only saw one moment of her parenting and I had no idea the circumstances under which she made the decision to make a meal out of  a fun-sized bag of junk food so, even as I was deciding that I would try very hard to not ever be in this situation with my child, I held no judgment against her. In fact, I would be kidding myself if I thought (in moment of desperation where my children are whining from the back that they are so hungry despite eating breakfast) that my pulling in to the McDonald’s drive-thru is any more nutritionally valuable than a bag of chips. The only difference is that we have been brainwashed to believe that one of the two is good for us! It’s not all negative, either. Many times have I seen  a parent diffuse a mid-meltdown toddler or bestow praise and love on their child in a unique and special way. It’s in those moments that I want to emulate that kind of parent.

So really it’s only the advice from the inexperienced that kind of miffs me but I am sure at some point I will get over that, too. Until then if you haven’t stayed awake all night not sleeping because you are letting you child “cry it out” so you can sleep, cleaned a booger nose with the shirt on your back, accidentally eaten your childs poop, or pee’d your pants in public because of the effects of childbirth then kindly keep your advice to yourself. It will make you feel like less of a fool in the long run when you actually have children of your own.


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