As with everything else, not everyone will agree with you when it comes to parenting. And it seems like more so than in any other occupation, family and strangers alike feel the need to voice their opinions about the job you’re doing. It’s possible there’s nothing else we do in public that’s as judgment-inducing as how we deal with our children. When you have a newborn and you’re already nervous about being out, inevitably some little old lady will tell you that your baby – who is in a fleece sleeper and covered in blankets – is cold. When Eliza was four-weeks-old and I was dealing with feeding issues, my mother-in-law came to visit. I had just fed Eliza and she was crying. My MIL said, “Do you think she’s hungry? Why don’t you just give her some formula?”
I wish I could say that these unsolicited remarks end at some point, but they do not. It happened to me Wednesday while traveling alone with the kids, and I know it will happen hundreds more times. After spending 1 1/2 hours driving to the airport, and the next 1 1/2 hours going through security and traipsing the kids across the terminal for 3 gate changes, I was already spent. Honestly I was just thankful I hadn’t lost my kids in an elevator or bathroom. But the wait wasn’t over. There were storms that were keeping our plane circling above, and in the end, our flight was delayed an hour-and-a-half. When your kids are at the past-exhausted, giggly, we’re going to hit each other because it’s funny mode, you can only do so much. I decided that getting them some exercise on the moving walkways was a good way to expend energy and pass the time.
Once there, I felt a little like perhaps this wasn’t the best decision. I didn’t want to be in the way of people hurrying to make their connections. I did a decent job keeping the kids to the right so people could pass on the left. Regardless, there was one older couple traveling with a single female companion, and they all huffed and puffed as they walked around us and threw me disapproving glances. Then the single companion said to my kids after passing them, “Children, hold on to the railing!”
In some ways, it’s entirely annoying that others – especially strangers – do this. I am not perfect and I might not always make the best decisions, but I would appreciate it if people assumed I have thought through what I’m doing. Were my children in danger of falling? I don’t think so. Were they in the way of others? Perhaps a little. Did their presence on the moving walkway hinder anyone? Maybe by a few seconds. But honestly, if you’re a stranger and you want to help a parent, sending dirty looks at her is not helpful. If this woman had looked at me and said, “Do you need some help? Would you like me to hold their hands and help you get through the walkway?”, I would have known she was concerned for their well-being, not trying to chastise me for what she thought was carelessness. There’s a part of me that wishes I would have reacted how Greg would have reacted, which would have been by saying, “Yes, and kids, remember not to speak unless spoken to.”
I really hope that regardless what stage I’m in with my kids, I give others the benefit of the doubt, and if I really want to be helpful, that I’ll offer actual help, not judgment. When I see a woman holding her baby in one arm and feeding her toddler some candy with her other while loading groceries into her car, I’m going to offer to strap her baby into his car seat or load her groceries, not shake my head at her for giving a toddler candy. Because I’ve been there, and I don’t want to forget what it’s like to live that tough moment.
This parenting journey is hard, with lots of twists and turns. Sometimes what we need least are these opinionated naysayers. But if we can laugh it off, and perhaps take any bit of truth from these incidents for the next test, it’s all part of the experience – the wonderful, challenging, beautiful experience.