Parenting

No Thanks, I Don't Need Your Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Image Credit Michael van der Galien, PJ Media

Hey bud, how about minding your own business?

Tomorrow, I’ll be a dad for six weeks. Yep, you read that right: the first six weeks have passed! And my, what a ride it was. I went from “who’s that weird little creature in my home” to “bottle-feeding my baby is pure gold.” I learned how to change her nappies, how to bathe her, how to change her clothes without her crying as if I’m torturing her… The list goes on and on. Truly, I haven’t learned so much in a such a short period in my entire life.

Thankfully, The Wife and I didn’t have to discover everything on our own. Her eldest sister stayed with us the first week. Her boy is nine years old, so she taught us how to feed our little one, clean her, change her diaper, and, well, everything else you need to know to get your baby past the first week. Oh, and she took care of the first night shift (from 10 p.m. till 3:30 a.m.), thereby enabling us to actually sleep.  

In the weeks since we have — of course — also asked friends, relatives, and others for advice and feedback. Last week, my own parents came over for six days. They too taught us a lot. As a result, I’m now more or less convinced that we can do this. That may sound strange to those without kids, but let me tell you, once the baby is actually born you suddenly realize you know nothing, John Snow.

Nothing.

As a result, you start doubting yourself, your partner, and Mother Nature herself. After all, why in the world didn’t she give you all the knowledge and skills you need? Well, although there’s still very much we don’t know, we now at least have a basic concept of how to proceed. That’s something.

So we were supported by a great many people, who all helped us out a lot. Thank you, all of you. We love you and couldn’t have done this without you. Literally. We couldn’t have.

That being said, I’ve got this minor issue with unsolicited advice. You see, getting advice when you ask for it from people you trust is great. But getting advice from folks you barely know — or don’t know at all — and don’t trust even a bit? It’s the worst. I never thought it possible, but I’ve discovered that once you have a baby, everybody and their dog a) think they know how you should raise your child and b) is extremely eager to share their ‘knowledge’ with you. Whether you want it or not.

For instance, the doctor told us that we could give our baby a pacifier once she was a month old. Since she’s sucking everything in sight, that’s what we did. But what happened when we went to a local restaurant for dinner? Some guy I didn’t know walked up to me and told me that we were doing it all wrong. “Doctors don’t advise you to give your baby a pacifier at this age. You should take it out. It’s not good for her.”

Oh really, genius? And who the hell are you? Because my doctor did tell me that we could give her the pacifier now. In fact, from what I’ve read and been told by actual experts, pacifiers are significantly less bad than, say, sucking on her own hand or thumb. Yes, really: sucking on her thumb causes bigger problems than sucking on a pacifier. That’s not shocking to me — pacifiers have been designed with the express purpose of being sucked on, a thumb has not been — but apparently, Mr. Know-It-All wasn’t quite aware of this fact.

Because I was armed with the facts, I actually answered the guy. I explained that, actually, pacifiers are quite alright, especially if the alternative is her sucking on her hand all day long. And then I caught myself. Why the hell am I explaining anything to anyone at all? Who the hell does Mr. Wiseguy think he is? I didn’t ask him for advice, nor am I interested in his thoughts.

Which brings me to the overall issue of unsolicited advice. I pick out the guy above because he truly angered me. Sadly, however, he isn’t exactly the only stranger (or friend, by the way) who has been giving us “advice” when we didn’t ask for it. And let me tell you something, there’s nothing more frustrating, irritating and angering than having someone walk up to you and tell you what to do with your baby and how to do it.

Hey listen, Know-It-Alls: if you are such a great parent — if you know everything so well — why is your child such a little psychopath? Why doesn’t your child get along with others? Or: why is your child such an underperforming loser?

And if that’s not the case, well, could you please tell me why your kids hate and despise you so much? I mean, if you’re supposed to be The Best Parents ever, shouldn’t your children love you and care for you? But what do I see when I observe you? I see that there’s almost no bond between you and your offspring. You’re not interested in them and they’re not interested in you. You’d almost think the two of you are strangers.

Because that’s something I noticed too: the folks who are obnoxiously interfering in our lives are also the ones who have the worst kids and are the worst parents themselves. Perhaps that’s because they’re obsessively focused on other people instead of on their own kids? I don’t know, but it’s certainly striking. On the other hand, those who have the best relationship with their children are the ones who are waiting for us to ask them for advice or help. When we do, yes, they’re certainly willing to give us their take, but that’s only after we solicited advice. Not before.

So. If any Unsolicited-Advice-Givers are reading this piece: please keep your opinions to yourself. There’s not one single new parent out there who’s interested in whatever gibberish you have to say.

Thanks.