This morning I was walking through our apartment complex with Luella. She’s learned the word “outside” and loves to use it. An elderly neighbour approached me with a concerned look and told me that I shouldn’t allow Lu to walk on the part of the driveway that has a crack, because “she could fall.” I smiled and gave my usual reply: “She’ll be alright”. But inside I was seething. This conversation happens on a very regular basis. Here are some other things I’ve been criticised for by neighbours, relatives, sometimes even complete strangers:
- Not “helping her” learn to walk enough
- Carrying her too much (“she’ll never learn to walk”)
- Reading her books in Spanish (“she’ll never learn to talk”)
- Not putting enough clothing on her
- Not putting shoes on her
- Wearing her on a hot day
- Taking her out during light rain
- Letting her sit on the ground
- Letting her use my iPad (which was purchased for our 14-hour flight)
- Letting her put a fork in her mouth
- Letting her get dirt/food/boogers on her hands/face/clothing
- Letting her play adjacent to an empty baggage carousel, whilst I literally stood behind her, supervising
- Not letting her eat ice cream before dinner (funny enough, this was from someone who once criticised me for giving her carrots because they’re too sweet)
Honestly, I could spend all day writing this list. It’s amazing how having a kid opens you up to public scrutiny. There are so many things that bother me about this.
Let’s start with the fact that many of these are out of some “well-meaning” concern for safety. Today’s sidewalk crack incident was probably the most absurd example.
Am I meant to roll out a carpet for my daughter everywhere she goes, ensuring only smooth, even walking surfaces? Because guess what? She’d fall on that. She falls roughly 217 times every day. And when she does, she doesn’t burst into flames. Blood doesn’t gush from her orifices. She says “Oopsie! I fell down”, giggles, and goes on her way, only to fall again in three metres.
It’s called resilience. Those scrapes on her knees mean she’s not a fragile newborn. She’s a bold little girl who can take risks and explore her world. She doesn’t need me to “teach her” to walk. Or talk. Or do most things. She needs me to get out of her way so she can learn them on her own.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people infantilise her when they do the same thing to me, a 32 year old, grown-ass woman. The notion that I can’t be trusted to properly dress the child who I’ve spent nearly every minute of every day with for the last 18 months is so condescending it boggles my mind.
And I wish this was a post about how, in 2014 I’m resolving to stop caring what other people think. When I was a self-conscious new mother struggling with PND, yes those criticisms got to me. But now it’s not really a matter of confidence. I kick arse at motherhood.
This is about standing up for myself as a mother. No, as a person, full stop. I want my daughter to know she doesn’t need to smile politely in the face of rudeness.
Now, I don’t want her next words to be “fuck off” either, so I need to work on responses that say “back off, grandma, you had your turn!” but in a… respectful way.
Any suggestions? How do you respond to unsolicited parenting advice?