Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 | 4 comments

Every parent has encountered it.  From the time you first venture out to the store with your brand new baby, people around you have something to say about your ability to raise it.

“That baby really needs some socks.”

“Why don’t you turn him around in that thing so he can see the world?”

“He needs a hat!  It’s cold/sunny/misting gently out!!”

The “helpers” tend to fade out as the children get older, except those hardy few who will insist they know what’s best for your child in any given situation, especially if said child is misbehaving.  Or appearing to misbehave.  Or breathing.

Add autism to the mix, and let the fun times begin!

If you’ve ever taken a 3 or 4-year-old to the toy section of Target, you’ve felt my pain.  There are buttons to be pushed, wheels to be turned, horns to be blown.  And invariably, older citizens to irritate.  One would assume that, being in the toy section, there might be actual children present.  And, in the presence of a mind-boggling assortment of toys, said children will be on a rampage to absorb every bit of fun to be had before getting dragged along in search of a more perfect popcorn popper (true story).

We must have some sort of cranky person homing gene, because every time I let Jack (or Lennon, for that matter) have their way with the toys, one or more shows up.  With a stern look.  Or a disapproving nod.  Or, thank goodness, advice.

I have been told my child needs a spanking.  That he’s out of control.  That if he can’t be responsible enough to stay with me and not run away, that I should have left him at home (obviously with my high-priced nanny, this being Los Angeles).

Just yesterday, one helpful man pointed out that I had said Jack’s name “about a hundred times.”   Why thank you, sir, I hadn’t kept count.  I was more concerned that my child might escape my sight and be kidnapped while he was counting how many different kinds of cars were on the shelf.  Clearly my priorities were askew.

My favorite recent encounter, though, was during the glorious Target 75% off toys sale (one of my most hallowed holidays).   By some stroke of luck, I only had Jack with me.  This is a “grab what you can get super fast because it’s going to be gone if you look the other way” sale, so I didn’t really want to be chasing him all over the store.  Amazingly, there was a whole shelf of Little People amusement parks for him to, well, amuse himself with.   He sat himself down on the floor with a ferris wheel and played the music.  Again, and again, and…  well, you see where this is going.

The happiest place on earth

I was having a fabulous time with my one occupied child.  That is, until I realized that an older woman across the aisle in iPods and iPod accessories was trying to get my attention.  She politely informed me, from about 50 feet away, that my child was annoying her by playing with this toy repeatedly, and that I really ought not to be letting him play with a toy I had “no intention of buying.”

I politely responded that if she was annoyed, she should probably move to another part of the store.  You know, away from the TOYS.

Nevermind that the amusement park did indeed come home with us, it’s the principle.  If I have happened across the one magical thing that will keep my child focused for more than 30 seconds, I’m going to seize upon it.  If that annoys you, well that’s your problem.

Especially if you’re on the other side of the store.

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What “advice” have you been given while out with your children?  Have you ever attempted to “educate” someone who’s given you unsolicited commentary?


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  • Anjie

    three bloomin’ cheers for this. I hail you! I think once people reach the magical age of whenever their children move out of the house they seem to forget that they TOO went through this kind of thing. Every word you say true true true…thank you!

  • Agggghh! Yes. Man, is that irritating. We’ve only had H. for 5 months and I know what you’re talking about. My favorite so far was an uninvited comment when I was standing around with my son in the bookstore:

    LADY (looking at Henry): Is your baby a boy or a girl?

    ME: Oh, he’s a boy.

    LADY (disapprovingly): You can’t really tell when you dress him in yellow like that.

  • Amber

    Yes! So many situations where the only good response is “fuck you,” and we’re too polite to say it.

  • Rhonie

    Wendy,
    Three cheers for this article! Once during a visit with a ‘well meaning’ Aunt, I breast feed my first child who was 3 months old at the time, twice in two hours. When I begin feeding him the second time, she looked at me and scolded, “Boy, he really has you wrapped around his finger.” I just smiled and kept on doing what I was doing but I wanted to respond, “Oh yes, my clever little 3 month old has already honed his manipulation skills right to your level!”
    Now that my kids are older (nearly 10 and 14), I am still given advice about what they eat, when they eat – that they should be disciplined more firmly, but then in the next breath it’s how caring and sweet they are. The Dutch are famous for very freely giving their opinions. I have even had complete strangers take juice packs out of my hand telling me I was not opening it properly. Ahhh! Yoga and Buddhism can come in very handy in these situations!
    Thanks for this article and great site.