December 15, 2009

Opinions are Like....

If you are a parent and you have never been given unsolicited advice, you are a rare commodity. Family, friends, neighbors, complete strangers have taken it upon themselves to tell me how to raise my children. I know I am not alone in this situation.
The first time a stranger gave me unsolicited advice, I was floored. My daughters were released from the NICU just before Christmas. We were living in northern Michigan and it is cold, cold cold during that time of year. To keep them warm and to prevent looky-loos from touching my daughters with germ-infested hands, I made the decision to use a product called Bundle Me. It's a cover that goes over infant car seats. It was wonderful. It kept my daughters warm when we had to venture out and I could simply pull the cover over their faces to keep them hidden if people so much as thought about sneezing in our direction. Then it happend. I was sitting at a medical appointment with Cakes, minding my own business. Truly, we only ventured out that winter for appointments, but with four preemies we had plenty of appointments to go to. As I sat waiting for our name to be called, a woman came over, sat down next to me and started lecturing me on the dangers of my Bundle Me. She said she was a NICU nurse and has seen children suffocate in these things. (Oh really? Then why is the product still on the market? Yes, you have to be careful when covering an infant with a blanket, but PUH-LEEZ). I let her blab for awhile. Then I looked at her with an amused expression and asked her if she was a NICU nurse at the local hosptial. No, she replied, a bit confused, she worked in a different state, why? So I proceeded to politely tell her that if she was from northern Michigan she might recognize me (you know, TV anchor and all) and would know that all four of my newborn daughters had just spent a significant amount of time in the NICU. During that time, I explained, I had many lessons on the special care preemies need and had gone through infant First Aid and CPR training as well. I showed her that Cakes was in fact breathing, picked up the infant carrier and moved to a different seat.
I'm sure some would argue that if you think a child is in danger you should speak up. I don't disagree, but to this day I do not appreciate the way that woman handled the situation. Essentially, she spoke to me like I had no idea what I was doing as a parent. Parenthood isn't easy. It's a lot of learning on the fly. There are dozens of proper ways to do the same thing. I don't have my daughters nap any more. It doesn't work for us. But I don't judge parents of other kids who aren't willing to budge on nap time. I let my daughters watch TV, other parents think TV is corrupting our kids. I could go on and on about the things I do that you may do differently.
I'm curious how many other parents have found themselves on the receiving end of awkward, inappropriate, unsolicited advice.

18 comments:

LauraC said...

Jon is pretty good at giving people the "ef you" face so if I'm with him, he just gives them evil looks. Really most of the assvicey comments are from family members. I just remind them it's been a long time and a lot of things about taking care of babies has changed.

(I do still think there are plenty of dangerous products on the market. Will people PLEASE stop buying drawstring hoodies for kids bc they are a strangulation hazard and they seem to be on the recall list every month for someone getting strangled!)

Quadmama said...

Hubby is pretty good at giving that look, too, or making some smartass comment to put people in their places.
Speaking of drawstring hoodies, I'm ready to ditch mine because my daughters think it's hilarious to pull the strings really tight while I'm helping buckle them in the car. Talk about a choking hazard...

Stephanie Manner Wagner said...

I tend to stick with a quick "thanks for the tip" and turn away from them quickly approach. However, trapped in a waiting room with someone who clearly is feeling a bit superior makes this all the more awkward and unpleasant.

I heard some comments on the Bundle Me as well (which I also used) but they were not on suffocation. That's a new one to me. The comments I heard were on them not being approved for use by some car seat manufactures. Not a surprise since they aren't going to test other company products on theirs.

A trip to the site to read their testing methods made me comfortable about them though, which is I guess my ultimate point.

You do your best for your kids as a mom, like you said, and that is all that really matters.

Quadmama said...

When I was researching the Bundle Me, I read that some NICUs weren't recommending them. I talked with our NICU nurses and they weren't opposed to them... as long as I made sure the blanket wasn't stuck to my girls' mouths, etc.

Stephanie B said...

I'm a bossy, managing woman. For that very reason, I try very hard not to give unsolicited advice (though I'll go on all day if you're foolish enough to ask me). However, even at my worst, I'm rarely presumptuous to lecture anyone on how to raise children.

I even bite my tongue when someone juggles a cigarette and a baby, though it's difficult.

Given my bossy nature, I'm fairly tolerant when people take it upon themselves to lecture me on child care, but I don't give off the aura that makes most people comfortable (usually, ironically enough, it's been people without children who have been the most pushy with unwanted advice) with telling me what to do. Therefore, it doesn't happen much.

But, in the end, I have to raise them. My children run wild and do all kinds of "bad" things in some ways but they are also very considerate and well-behaved children in public. I give them some unusual freedoms and restrict other things as I see fit. And my children, who each have different needs, are not treated the exact same.

And I won't apologize for that. My daughter, though smart-mouthed, is intelligent and compassionate, with better judgement than many children her age (though that doesn't say much any more). I feel pretty vindicated.

Rosemarie said...

Oh yes - I've been on the receiving end of lots of unsolicited advice - and yes, it's the way they SAY it that often drives me nutso. It also gets me upset when people look at my girls and say, "Double Trouble!" - why would you say something like that? Grrrr ...

Quadmama said...

Stephanie B sums it all up: in the end, I have to raise them.
Rosemarie: oh, I always hear things similar to Double Trouble. Usually "better you than me." Yep, better me any day!

Marilynne said...

It's called support. People aren't judging you or trying to get a peek at some famous kids, they're just giving you some friendly advice. You just thank them for their concern and if the advice doesn't suit you then forget it and do things your way.

Anyone's quads are a source of curiosity and people want to see them. You don't have to give people reasons why you cover them up, you just tell them thanks, that's the way you do it.

Marilynne

Quadmama said...

That's generally what I did, except for the few times when someone really rankled my feathers. Now that my daughters are older, much of the advice has stopped. I think once people see I managed to get the girls to age four they figure I can do it!

Janel said...

I'm absolutely zero interested in the unsolicited advice or opinions of near any parent of a full term non multiple baby, or non parent for that matter.
If someone brings up a good point, then I'm often the first to say thank you, but I haven't run into it much when it comes to unsolicited advice or opinions. I don't care about being right or smart, or creative, or whatever. I care about my kids getting what they need vs. family needs, and being safe vs. family ability. So if I'm wrong, fine. I'll take it.

Everyone with some piece of advice or opinion on the tip of their tongue seems to be sure that they've got a handle of all of the random bits that make up my decisions, though. They don't, I do.

I tune out the double troubles and hands full, and other twinisms. What I can't tune out is people feeling like they have a right to invade my kid's personal space because the kids aren't full grown adults with the weight of that to say yay or nay to people invading their space. No stranger has a right to touch my kids without some form of permission from them or myself. Especially do they not then have the right to make a comment about one of my kids not being genial enough to them in the manner they obviously expected. Dude, they don't know you, you don't have the right to touch my kids, and scolding them for not giving you the the right look of approval or freaking out is out of bounds. One would hope you wouldn't do that to an adult. Unfortunately, my years working in retail taught me that all sorts of people feel they have the right to touch you unasked for (and not just a handshake).

Umm. Right. Maybe I should rant on my own blog? :) Sorry.

MaryAnne said...

What irritates me the most is when people act like I am either crazy or stupid for having three small children. I chose to have my three small children. Do they complicate life? Yes. But I wouldn't trade them for anything.

As for unasked for advice, my favorite is from a grocery outing with Emma and Johnny when Johnny was maybe four months old. Emma was strapped in the child's seat in the cart, and Johnny was in my ergobaby carrier, which happened to be his favorite place in the world. A lady came over and chewed me out for putting my infant in a baby carrier. She declared that he was clearly miserable and uncomfortable, when, in fact, I had been feeling very encouraged by the fact that, for once, both children seemed genuinely happy to be in the grocery store...

Quadmama said...

Janel: laughing because you really summed up many of my feelings.
MaryAnne: so no one was crying, fussing, etc, yet the woman thought Johnny was miserable? Wow!

Brooke said...

Yes, this happens to me and drives me bonkers - especially when it's from, um, a certain family member of mine who has no children but loves to tell me everything I'm doing wrong.

Quadmama said...

Sounds like someone I know...

reanbean said...

Unsolicited advice is the worst! Especially from a stranger. (Although I find it equally annoying when it comes from my MIL or SIL.) I hate it so much that I don't even give my best friends advice about their babies unless they ask (I told them my reasons for this before their babies were born, so they know to ask if they want my opinion).

Quadmama said...

Good way to handle your friends... tell them they have to ask if they want to know your opinion.

Kim said...

I really can't recall anyone telling me something like that—occasionally, my mom or dad might mention something if one of my kids has misbehaved around them or something. I can't imagine what I'd do if some stranger started in on me. You handled yourself well in that situation!

What has struck me, though, is how many times I've had to listen to moms go on and on in a really know-it-all tone of voice about a topic that they don't even have to deal with in their own family. For example, a young mom was just ripping on ADHD and doctors who write presciptions for Ritalin and parents who choose to medicate their kids are taking the easy way out, blah blah blah. She had a newborn. She didn't even know what she was talking about and it just sounded so judgmental and critical, I couldn't believe it.

That kind of harsh talking happens a lot, whether it's condemning temper tantrums or breastfeeding in public or WHATEVER, and I don't think women realize how hurtful it can be. You just never know what moms are dealing with, and to shoot one's mouth off about how kids are THIS way because of THAT thing is foolish, IMHO. We all need to be more understanding and less rigid in how we expect others to parent (myself included!)

Quadmama said...

Amen!

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