There are a lot of blog posts out there angrily dismissing unsolicited parenting advice.
This is not one of those posts.
It might sound strange but I welcome uninvited parenting advice. “No one knows my child better than me.” Or “I’m going to raise my child the way I see fit” are not really sentences that exist in my vocabulary.
First and foremost, I do not know my child better than anyone else, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t know how many of you have toddlers but they are big giant mysteries — most often to their own mothers. Yesterday, Griffin loved bananas. Today, he won’t have anything to do with them and I have NO IDEA why. It does not bother me at all to admit that another mother might recognize the cause of behavior in my child that I wouldn’t have noticed if it had slapped me in the face.
Second, I moved back to my hometown precisely because I had no interest in tackling parenting on my own. I agree with Hillary Clinton on a lot of things, one of which is that it truly does take a village to raise a child. I think our society and, more importantly, our children have lost something very valuable when we stopped approaching parenting as a community endeavor and started approaching it as a solitary journey. There is a wisdom every mother earns through sleepless nights and endless crying that is lost if she never shares it. (Click to tweet.)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the smug lady who offers a “You really should control your child” as your two-year-old melts down in the checkout line. Really!?! I would never have thought of that without your helpful advice! That lady and all the other jerks who offer judgment instead of kindness can take a walk.
I’m not talking about them.
However, the well-intentioned friend who says, “I would never have done that if I knew then what I know now” or the (dare I even say it) mother-in-law who notices similarities between your husband as a baby and your own child are ignored at your peril. No one wants to be told they’re making a mistake with their child or that they are bad mother.
And, honestly, I don’t think that’s what most people are saying. They know you are a good mother and want what’s best for your child or most wouldn’t offer advice in the first place. No one went around offering Joan Crawford parenting tips. It was abundantly clear even the best advice wasn’t going to save those kids from the wire hangers.
The truth is we all know we make mistakes with our children - daily if not hourly - and if old Aunt Agnes’s unsolicited advice can keep my average down for the day then so be it. I’ll take it where I can get it. Sometimes the most helpful expert isn’t in the doctor’s office or the hottest new parenting book, but right down the street.