Friday, February 25, 2005
Advice from an old junkerI've been reading the excellent, wonderful blog Chez Miscarriage for a long time, and recently the topic has been 'drive-by' mommy comments. I understood perfectly what the discussion was all about.
I added my own opinion, but I think I want to say something else.
No mommy is perfect, no daddy is perfect, no parent of any kind is perfect.
None of our kids is perfect either. Not even yours. Heck, not even mine! (Whoah, Nellie, ESPECIALLY not mine. Even memory can't cover it ALL up!)
We go into parenting as rank amateurs. Taking care of siblings isn't enough. Reading a book isn't enough. Seminars aren't enough. Advice from other people isn't enough. We are a rank amateur, even with our tenth kid. No two are alike.
It's kind of like learning to drive. We can learn a lot from a book, or from a long-time driver. But ultimately, if we are going to actually drive, we have to sit down behind the wheel and drive.
Nobody who has never driven, can tell you how to drive.
Nobody who has never been pregnant can tell you what it's like.
Nobody who has never given birth can tell you what it's like.
Nobody with kids can tell you what it will be like for anyone else.
A book written by a person who's done all these things can't tell you what it's like. Oprah doesn't know. Dr. Phil doesn't know.
The only way you'll ever really know what it's like, is to do it yourself.
And no two parents are alike. No two kids are alike.
Some of us are brand-new and fast and shiny and easy to start. Some of us are old and slow and sluggish and take a while to get going. Some of us were that way when we were young, too. Some of us are old junkers and aren't going anywhere for a while.
It's the same with our children. (Except for that 'junker' part; NO child is a junker!!!!!!)
I had one gas-guzzling stick-shift kid, and one automatic with great mileage kid. Was one of them more correct to have, than the other? No.
When people compared them, I got mad. So do you.
There were and are and will be times when the parent is not behaving well, the child is not behaving well, and the passers-by are not behaving well.
When the three meet, it can only mean disaster, with hurt feelings all around.
I think sometimes that if we could all remember that most people mean well, including us, that maybe we wouldn't go off the deep end so quickly or so easily or with such a huge splash that it knocks people down.
Sure, there are a lot of meddling busybodies out there, but there are also an awful lot of well-meaning people who just want to help.
What is the difference between a meddling busybody and a nice helpful person? Sometimes, nothing. It depends on our mood, sometimes. It depends on who it is, and where we are, and what's happening when they say something to us. It's like art. We all know what we like, but we can't always describe it.
A true meddling busybody is just rude, plain and simple, and no amount of politeness will shut her/him up or change his/her ways. Just smile and walk away. If it's a relative, or someone you see often, you might have to just lay down the law.
Nice people who just see a need and would like to help, should not be treated rudely even when their comment strikes us as rude and in fact brings out murderous tendencies we didn't even know we were carrying around.
The problem is, how to tell the difference. Sometimes, we can't.
I have always tried to respond nicely when people found fault with my methods of dealing with my children, but occasionally I have had to tell people to butt out. Not in those terms, but with that meaning. It's not just with young children, either. Wait till you have teens. Oh, baby, will you ever get the advice then.
Sometimes a stranger will make a simple comment that will set us off like a firecracker, and when we walk away and have calmed down, we realize that it was nothing to get all upset about. Or maybe it was. Either way, other people have had control of us for a few moments, and they shouldn't have. We shouldn't have let that happen.
We parents are so oversensitive when it comes to our children. I was. I still am. You are, too. Even when we can see that their behaviour or cleanliness or clothing choices or food or habits or hair length or girlfriend or whatever leave much to be desired, we don't like it when someone else points that out. We're insecure enough; we don't need to be made more so. People should never criticize someone else's child or child-rearing methods, unless there is some kind of danger involved.
But what about the occasional comment from a stranger that is complimentary, but it just came at a bad time and we respond poorly to it?
The other day, I saw a woman with a double stroller and a toddler, in the store. The children were filthy but smiling, and very well-behaved. She, on the other hand, looked as though she'd been rode hard and put up wet, as Dad used to say. When we got out into the foyer, I said to her, "Your children are beautiful, and so well-behaved! You must be very proud of them!" She turned to me and said, in full hearing of those children, "You must be nuts. These kids are nuthin but brats. They're lucky not to be pounded into puddles when we get home. So shut the hell up about stuff you don't know nuthin about, lady."
But her children WERE beautiful. Was it so awful that I told her I thought so?
We're all oversensitive and insecure about our children. But let's try not to let it affect our simple good manners when dealing with another adult.
No meddlesome rude comments and no hateful responses, okay?
Maybe we need to change ourselves before we try to change the world. Maybe we all need to take a long look at how we are treating each other.
Isn't that how we do change the world? Isn't it really the ONLY way to change the world?
And was I out of line? I apologized for bothering her, but it didn't seem to make any difference.
I always enjoyed positive comments from people about my children. I still do. Nobody of any age gets enough positive comments.
Now, go here. Her blog is awesome, and so is she, and she's talking about positive comments. And then obey her and go to her friend's blog.
Of course, if your kids are wild, shrieking monsters who are tearing the turf apart and endangering and annoying everybody in the place, then I would probably amend all the above advice with the disclaimer "except for you."
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:07 PM | |