Sunday, August 05, 2007

I'll meet you at high noon in the main aisle of ToysRUs

(A two-pronged rant)

I've noticed that some mothers, as they get farther and farther away from their own experience in a particular phase of parenting, feel more and more strongly that they are experts on that segment of parenting and so are more willing to interfere with a mommy who's experiencing that phase right now.

I call this "Blue's Rule of Parental Experience Proximity". Let me explain:

I have plenty of time on various mommy/baby/infertility/TTC boards. I have had light convos, intense discussions, and outright arguments with ladies all over the world on the subject of parenting. In addition, I know moms from other boards, plus the few I know IRL.

Among them, I find the type of mom I'm talking about. Usually a mother who has kids the same age as mine is NOT liable to offer up unsolicited advice. If I'm talking about, say, potty training, most moms of toddlers/pre-schoolers give only sympathy unless I actually ASK for advice. The random one who just thrusts her opinion on people comes across as a right bitch.

Hold that thought.

I've noticed that the farther away from the trials of potty training (to use our example) some mothers are, the more willing they are to tell us current potty trainers how to do it.

The phenomenon culminates in the Grandmother. Not all Grandmothers are like this, but a tidy few are. How many Grans do you know - either your own mother/MIL or total strangers - who have absolutely no problem elbowing mom out of the way to take over or making snarky comments on how mom isn't doing something right?

Grandparents are also quick to trot out the excuses: "I have more experience than you." (so, rather than letting you find your own way and make your own mistakes, I'll just parent for you!) and "But we just love our grandkids so much." (that we are willing to ignore your wishes and take over!)

Hold onto that thought as well.

My theory is further supported by those without kids. Have you ever noticed that it's your friend or co-worker who has never had kids who thinks she's a parenting expert? How many first-time-pregnant moms-to-be have you heard spout off loads of smug wisdom on how mommying should be done? (I did it horribly before I had kids, did you? Makes me cringe to think of it.)

What's up with this?

Example #1: I just spent time with four moms. Two with kids the same age as mine, one with teenagers, and one with grown kids and grandkids. The two younger moms never once did anything to or with my kids without asking. The middle mom helped out, but caught herself before doing or allowing big things. The last mom simply did as she wished, making me have to, literally, watch her like a hawk as she parented my children as she saw fit. When I came behind her and corrected things, she rolled her eyes, sighed dramatically, and, at one point actually threw up her hands and snapped: "Fine!"

Example #2: On the way back from our recent beach trip, we stopped at a restaurant (a rare treat) and were all sat down eating. Fiver was in his carseat with his bottle (Yes, his bottle was propped. I confess it: I'm a Bottle Propper. Ring DSS. None of my breastfed children has EVER taken a bottle from me - they will from other people - and he's right on the cusp of being able to hold it himself).

Anyway, he was just playing with it as there was so much interesting Whisky Tango action (a blog for another day - hey it was Orangeburg, SC), and we were all eating happily. Suddenly a little old woman materialised at my shoulder, reached into the carseat, into my child's face, snatched the bottle, and cried, loudly: "Is the baby supposed to be getting milk?! Is he getting any?! The bottle's slipped!"

Now, my 5-month-old Fiver weighs 22lbs. He's in the 95th percentile for height and weight. All of my children are rosy-cheeked, robust, and smiling (or were at that second ... until she showed up. Then they were transfixed, forks halfway to their mouths, staring in wonder, as was the entire restaurant). He does not look as if he misses any meals.

When I put my hand on her arm and murmured that he was fine, really, she laughed and said those magic words: "You know how us Grandmas are!"

Erm, maddening? Meddling?

Example #3 (and it's a biggie): There's this lady on one of my boards to whom I do not speak. We had a falling out one day (BTW, she is probably unaware of my ire, so smug is she in her opinion) over parenting. We were discussing public school's policies regarding children with food allergies.

My opinion is that schools should go to reasonable lengths to insure the safety of kids with food allergies: separate eating area, no home-made treats brought to class, etc. I do NOT think , for example, that schools should disallow anyone bringing homemade lunches for their own consumption. This is a violation of the rights of the hundreds of other kids who attend that school. What's next? Banning any and all eating of peanut containing products at the homes of teachers, staff, and other students? (Because, after all, someone could have peanut butter on his fingers when he arrives at class.) Do we need to forbid all other allergens as well? Wheat? Eggs? Where does it end?
These children have to survive in the real world. Forcing their school environment to conform so severely to their needs that it ignores everyone else's rights is not helping them. The real world will not do this for them.

The mom on the board with whom I butted heads has a grandchild with peanut allergies and was outraged at my opinion. She implied that she loved her grandchild more than I loved my children because she was more than willing to stomp on the rights of others on her grandchild's behalf and I was not.

Uhm, no, honey. Mommy Rule #1: do not ever, ever, ever suggest that you are a better parent or love your kids more because you parent them reasonably differently. I breastfeed, you don't: I'm a better mom? NO. You co-sleep, I don't: you love your kids more? NO. My oldest is 5 and yours is 35 so you're a better mother by default? Not necessarily.

Is it just that this woman is obnoxious, or is it Blue's Rule of Parenting Experience Proximity? Or is it just me?

What's your opinion on others parenting your kids without asking (or offering unsolicited opinions thereon)? Is it ASSvice/interference if it comes from a stranger/childless friend/co-worker but fine from aunts/moms/grands? Should someone with a vested interest in the child (like grandma) be allowed to parent a child with disregard to the mother's wishes and/or without her request (for instance, discipline, or allow mom-forbidden things) if she, in her superior experience thinks it's best?

Sound off moms and grandmoms!

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posted by MrsEvilGenius @ 9:05 am   5 comments


At 7:46 pm, Blogger Michelle Finsand-Peacock said...

Hmmmm, I'm a (38 year-old) mom of 2 teenage boys who have lived with their dad for 11 years now, therefore making me a long-distance mom who only sees her kids several times a year. (Not enough at all, by the way!) That's the one hand. On the other hand, most of my friends ask me for parenting advice for some reason, and have for years. I'm stuck in the middle there somewhere. Sometimes I wonder how I have any reason to give advice, and yet they're asking me and I do feel I'm a rather intuitive parent and my advice often works for them. I dare ya to categorize me, Blue! LOL But I SO hear you on this!!! And I do try not to give unsolicited advice because I know how maddening it is to get it.

Sure glad to see you writing more again!

At 8:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do feel comfortable with my sister, brother, and parents giving me advice and/or diciplining my children. I don't mind an occasional poke from a stranger ("your daughter needs to be sitting in the grocery cart, she might fall out while standing up") either. However, my family knows the way I parent and how we dicipline in our house, and they respect that.
To be honest, there are several parents I come in contact with who I would LOVE to give advice to just for the simple fact that their children think the world owes them something, but I keep my mouth shut and concentrate on my own household.

At 8:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Boy your kiddos are getting big! Damn, why do they have to go and do that???

Anyhoo,I too had just gotten home from a mini vacation (Left Friday at 4 p.m. home at Sunday at 9 p.m.) I have a 82 year old father with health issues you have farm animals the similarities, well...)
and had just read an e-mail from Daredevil Daughter's Nursery school teacher as follows:
"Hi Campers! I can't believe it's time already!

I wanted to bring to your attention that we have a little guy, Zach, in our A.M. session that has an allergy to peanuts, egg, milk (dairy), and mustard (which is surprisingly found in many products).

We will, of course, make sure that these ingredients are not used during camp. However, it would help to keep Zach healthy if we can all remember to wash our hands thoroughly of any breakfast crumbs and residual snack oils prior to coming to camp. I'll also make sure we have good washing habits throughout the day...always a good habit to develop!

Snack will be provided and if you have any questions...feel free to ask! "

Okay I think this is WAAAAAAAY too much to ask of 4 year olds especially seeing as this is a woman that for 2 1/2 hours in the morning in her OWN home, is providing a mini day camp atmosphere in her OWN home. For this child's mother to expect this of a woman who is doing this basically for "fun" is ridiculous!

What happens if one of the kids happens to have peanut butter (A staple in my house BTW) on her clothes?

BTW my kids just spilled a whole huge Costco-sized honey roasted peanuts all over the back seat of my truck!

In NYS sue happy state - this poor teacher could be opening herself up for a HUGE loss - her home her car EVERYTHING!

Whic of course will NOT be covered because she is charging an admission "fee" to camp to cover materials and is not licensed by NYS!

Oh I just smell trouble in the air... MUSTARD?????? HOly sh#$ no ballparks for you!!!!

I have an idea - why don't we just have all the kiddie stip down and put on their HAZ MAT suits before school???

Sorry - just a bit miffed at how the world expects everyone else to take responsibility for THEM!


After just watching the 300 - these people would not have been allowed to BREED because they would have been dropped from the cliff - EXTREME yes, but I have a few ADULTS in mind for this retroactively..

Have a great day! Glad to see all of your hard work! I love the new stores BTW!


At 1:05 pm, Blogger Tilly Cat & Pip-Squeak said...

Well, I don't mind people offering me advice, as long as they don't *insist* on it. After all, you never know where you might pick up a useful idea. In the same way, I am quite happy to offer people advice, even if they don't ask for it, but I am always careful to say something like "What helped us was doing xyz." I would never say "You should do xyz."

I tolerate people parenting/disciplining my children without me asking them in proportion with how close they are to me. For example, I wouldn't get cross if my mum or close family member chimed in with something. But I reserve the right to tell them to stop/do it differently and I expect them to respect that.

I love the pictures of the brood!


At 11:24 am, Blogger Danielle said...

Great topic.

I kindly listen to people who have children that are older. Especially the grandmother type. I try my best to just ignore but nobody just comes up and touches my babies!!!

I respect that other families have ways that are different. I don't see them better or worse, only different. The exception would be something extreme like hurting kids. I breastfeed the twins until the were 15 months. I did it in public and didn't flaunt it but didn't hide under a blanket. I don't care if other mothers bottle vs. breast. Bf in pubic or private. Wear bear...whatever!!! It's their child and unless they are really hurting them, whatever.

I don't think it's just you.


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