Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

It Takes A Village…Or Does It???

on December 19, 2012

Should non-parents “butt out,” or should parents take any advice they can get? Mamma Fratelli and Mea are on one side, and thedude and Molar Mother are on the other. What do you think?

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Mamma Fratelli (infant and toddler mamma):

It takes a village to raise a child. We’ve heard the saying before and we probably agree on some level, but what do we really think about non-parents giving us parenting advice?

If a non-parent offers parenting advice, take it. By some strange twist of irony, people know everything there is to know about raising children – until they have one of their own. At the very moment the 7 lb cherub takes its first breath, all of our logic, reason, and wisdom dematerializes, leaving us in a perpetual state of HolycrapwhatdoIdonow?! I know that before I had children of my own, when I heard a toddler having a tantrum, it was blatantly obvious that all the parents had to do was tell him to stop. It is rude to scream in public and toddlers should never be allowed to do so. Telling them what you want them to do works every time. They will immediately stop and calm down when told. In restaurants, infants should not be permitted to grab silverware and bang it on the table or plate. Parents somehow forget what we all knew before we had children: just take the silverware away from the child! Forks are not for banging. Hand him a toy. He will be happy to play with the toy because it is a toy and babies like toys. If he expresses interest in the fork, simply tell him that only Mommies and Daddies get to use forks and he is just a child so he needs to be content with his plastic puppy. When school-aged children come home sad because they don’t fit in, just tell them that they are pretty, intelligent, and funny and the other kids in class are just jealous. They will quickly understand that it is not their fault that they are always picked last in gym class and tell their peers, “you’re just jealous” which will solve the situation immediately. In high school, when your child comes home past curfew, just tell her that she can no longer date because, clearly, she is not mature enough to do so. When your teen tries smoking, simply take the cigarettes away and tell him that they will kill him. That will stop the fascination with the forbidden before it becomes an addiction. All in all, I do not know what it is that happens in our brains when we look at our own misbehaving child and realize that we have exactly .67 seconds to come up with a response that will mould him or her as a person, set precedent for all future consequences, influence the family dynamic and resolve the situation at hand before it gets worse. This really is not difficult to do. If you ever find yourself lost, confused, frustrated or overwhelmed, simply ask a non-parent for advice. They always know exactly what to do.

______

Mea (toddler and tweener mamma):

hail

Stealing my make-up and up to no good!

If you are not a family member, a VERY CLOSE friend, have no children and/or cannot relate to my situation, DO NOT offer me unsolicited parenting advice…ever. There’s nothing more annoying than a non-parent, non-family member spewing unwelcomed parental advice. Seriously, “Butt out!!!” You may have insight, you may see things that I don’t see, and you may think you know what you are talking about, but you don’t…period. Yes, technically none of us can relate to the other, because our experiences in life all vary, but you cannot understand parenting, unless you’ve been there.

I wanted a picture of them hugging, but he decided to head-butt her instead!

I wanted a picture of them hugging, but he decided to head-butt her instead!

If you’ve never been sleep-deprived, longing for a shower after 3 days or puked-pooped-peed-spit on inadvertently, you can’t relate. If you’ve never experienced one of those really bad parenting days where you literally could just walk away…forever (But you don’t!), don’t talk to me about what I should/could be doing better – unless I ask. If you’ve never been forced to push back nap-time while in public, and your child is screaming and ripping your shirt from your shoulders – smile, help or ignore me (And then click here to see why you should use condoms! )! Your judgment and dirty/shocked glances are not appreciated; in fact, they’re downright rude and presumptuous. If you think you can do a better job with my hard-headed, nap-deprived child, go ahead and try…I dare you. Keep your judgmental, self-righteous thoughts to yourself, thank you!

______

Molar Mother (infant mamma):

Buddy

Buddy

When I was a non-mother, there was one thing that really bothered me. Parents who dismissed me (and my kind) with the simple phrase “You can’t understand, you don’t have kids.” WTF?

We’ve all been guilty of expressing similar sentiments at one time or another. “You wouldn’t understand, you never had your wisdom teeth removed.” “You don’t get it, you’ve never had your arm bitten off by a rhinoceros with mad cow disease.”

Those examples might sound ridiculous, but guess what, the original statement is ridiculous, too. When parents say this, they’re effectively saying, “Don’t even talk to me because whatever you say is invalid since you haven’t passed on any chromosomes to the next generation.”

From how much this statement angers me, you’d think I’d have gone out of my way to give parents advice on raising children. But, no, it’s not like that. This statement doesn’t come about after telling a dad to “Make sure you wipe your daughter from front to back instead of back to front.” No, it usually comes after you say something like, “There’s a sale on toilet paper at Giant in Hershey.” You think I’m kidding? Nope. The parental response resembles something like this: “You don’t understand how hard it is to get to that Giant. You don’t have kids. You don’t have to bribe your kids, including the one who doesn’t wear shoes without monkeys on, in order to even get in the car. Shop at Giant? SHOP AT GIANT??? YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO NOT HAVE MONEY FOR TOILET PAPER!!!”

Once I was part of a discussion about parents who have unchecked little hellions. A group of us wished we could intervene and tell the hellion-raisers to maybe, oh, not let their 10 year old run around the restaurant screaming obscenities and body checking wait staff. It came up that our opinions on child behavior are often dismissed because we didn’t have kids. One of my friends said, “You know, just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”

And that’s really the point. When parents say, “You don’t understand,” they’re really saying, “Shut the heck up because you’re too dumb to figure anything out about children.” And this statement really comes from their insecurities about how they’re raising their kids.

I’d like all you parents to think about it, though. Sometimes the best advice comes from those outside a situation. Remember when you dated that jerk in high school? All your friends knew you should dump the nitwit, but you were so embroiled you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a good idea to date someone who had “I’m Awsome” tattooed on his back.

As a parent, you’re bound to get unwarranted advice. I’ve discovered that experienced parents are the worst offenders. “My Johnny crawled when he was two months old because we fed him bean sprouts in his bottle.” Uh, yeah.

When it comes down to it, none of us like getting advice. So why do we hate on non-parents so much? As parents we’ve got to be really careful that we don’t end up hurting people. If your cousin says she read an article on baby wearing, let her tell you what she read. Because you never know why someone doesn’t have a kid. Nature keeping someone from being a parent doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent enough to understand how parenting works. Experience is not always the best teacher. And just because someone isn’t a parent doesn’t mean they don’t know good parents, haven’t had good parents or haven’t seen good parenting in action. Don’t belittle or begrudge them.

And let’s not forget that sometimes the people who see things most clearly are the people outside the situation. Have you ever watched Supernanny? Jo doesn’t have kids of her own, but that lady sure can see into a situation and shape it up. Wouldn’t you take her advice (This episode made me cry. )?

Now that you know what really bothered me as a non parent, watch out. And don’t get me started on people who say to childless couples, “Must be nice to go to a movie and sleep in. I haven’t slept past 4 am since I had kids.” @#$%ers

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thedude (puppy papa):

thedude's babies

thedude’s babies

I’m not a dad, but I have a dad. I’m not a mom, but I have a mom too. Does not being a parent mean that I’m automatically disqualified from ever giving parental advice? I don’t think so. After all, I’m at least a son. First, let me establish that the whole idea of giving advice can be a dangerous one. We live in an individualistic culture: people aren’t really interested in what you think…even if you are “right,” a term I put in quotes because of its subjectivity. People want to hear encouragement, not advice. But if you think about it, isn’t encouragement just as subjective as advice? Because of this discrepancy, I try to seldom give unsolicited advice. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I were to offer advice to a parent.

I would never walk up to a mother with a crying baby and say, “You should really try (fill in the blank) to get that baby to stop crying.” But would it be the rudest thing in the world if I said, “Hi, I don’t mean to be nosy, but you know my mom used to (fill in the blank) to get me to stop crying when I was a baby, and it worked every time”? I’m not so sure. I’d like to think that my intentions would be positive and without criticism. So what’s the problem? Let’s flip the coin for a second and ask a (somewhat) opposite question. Is it appropriate for a non-parent to encourage a parent? The mother with the crying baby somehow gets her baby to stop crying on the first try, and I walk over and say, “Wow, that was amazing; you clearly have a great connection with your baby!” Aren’t I merely giving my opinion as a non-parent? Is it really all that different because I’m saying something that the parent wants to hear?

Perhaps the bigger question here isn’t whether or not it’s appropriate for a non-parent to give parental advice. Perhaps the bigger question is how should the parent who gets the advice from the non-parent respond? I hope this analogy makes sense, and I in no way mean to turn this into a parochial conversation. It’s just how my mind works. I love Jesus – I love reading about Him and talking about Him – I especially love talking about Him with atheists because I know that atheists and I disagree. An atheist and I have little in common in terms of faith: I believe in Jesus, and they don’t. But were I to dismiss an atheist, and assume that because they don’t believe in Jesus that that means they have nothing to offer to me in the way of wisdom or advice surrounding my faith, wouldn’t that be a little closed-minded of me?

I’m not saying that all parents should immediately and graciously accept the advice of non-parents; however, I don’t particularly care for the response, “You’re not a parent, so unless you have something to say that I want to hear, just butt out.”

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7 responses to “It Takes A Village…Or Does It???

  1. Dr. Sayers says:

    Sometimes I think I was a better child psychologist before I became a parent. I didn’t understand then how hard is it to do some of the good-parent things you have to do even though they make the child you love unhappy. Then, it was easier for me to say to parents, “If he gets upset, he gets upset. You still have to say no.” Other times, it’s clear to me that I knew nothing about children before I became a mom. Now, I can say, “I know it’s really hard sometimes to say no when it makes your child unhappy. Even so, it’s important that you do it. Feel what you feel, but still parent with love and limits.”

  2. Tania says:

    I try never to give unsolicited advice, period.

    • Mea says:

      Great philosophy, Tania! I try not to as well, unless it’s a family member, of course. My family has an open mind and mouth policy! I would say it’s a good and bad thing at times. 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  3. Tammy says:

    I love your blog with all of the different perspectives and opinions! Keep up the good work!

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