“If you ever don’t feel like taking your kid to the park, just tell him it’s closed.” “If you’re in a store and your kid is crying because he wants something, tell him it’s not for sale.” “If your teenage son keeps slamming the door and locking himself in his room when he’s mad, grab a screwdriver and take away his door.”
These were all gems of wisdom that I received from friends long before I was ever a parent. I even knew one couple that would wrap up their 5-year-old son’s old toys and present them to him for Hannukah! Bordering on criminal, that is one tactic that I can assure you, I will never ever employ.
Little did I know that these gems, this insightful advice, was quite common in the day-to-day life of a parent.
During my wife’s pregnancy, other parents would say to us, “Once you have a kid, your life is over.” A slightly more upbeat one would counter with “Once you have a kid, your life begins.” Since our life both ends and begins when we have child, can we just compromise and say, “Once you have a kid, your life continues?”
After two months of being a dad, I can wholeheartedly say that it is the greatest gift in the world. I can also state that the most annoying part of being a parent is receiving unsolicited and often contradictory advice from other parents. “Don’t worry, it gets easier,” we’ve heard in the thousands along with the antithetical, “Enjoy this time while he sleeps because before you know it, you’ll be chasing after him.”
Finally, there are the visionary parents with numerous children that say to you, “It’s different with the second.” Get out! You mean to tell me that things aren’t exactly the same with twice the amount of children? Why isn’t this breaking news on CNN?
Last week, we ascended in the elevator of our building — my wife holding our 8-week-old son and another couple with their daughter in a stroller. The mother of the child was pregnant and stared at our son while whispering to her tall, lanky husband, “Remember when she was that size?” He laughed, turned to us, and said, “You’re doing a great job.”
My initial thought was “How does he know? Is it because we’re not physically assaulting our son on this 25-second elevator ride? For all he knows, we could be feeding our baby Skittles and mixing vodka in his breast milk. Just because he’s been a parent for four or so years does not give him the right to patronize us and comment blindly on our parenting skills. I politely said, “Thank you,” and stepped out of the elevator.
Don’t get me wrong, as a parent, I now understand the desire to share your child and experience with the world. I find myself telling taxi drivers and anyone who will listen about my son and posting countless pictures of him on Facebook — something that I scorned at before I was a member of this wonderful fraternity.
The text messages with my friends that once featured crazy dating stories and sports news have been replaced with questions about butt paste, blowouts, and sleep schedules. On the street, I notice a “stroller camaraderie” as I push my son past another couple with a similar vehicle. A friendly smile that says “Yup, I understand” ensues. These are the same strollers that I once viewed as traffic and yelled, “It’s not a tank!” at reckless, speeding parents.
Yesterday, I shared a carpool car service with a young mother and her 5-year-old daughter. The reason that I know her age is because her mother announced it completely unprovoked. Her inquisitive daughter asked several questions along the way: “Mommy, is the driver stopped because the light is red?” “Yes, my 5-year old genius, that’s exactly why.” Clearly, the bar is low for some parents.
You can laugh, but I’m telling you, I vow to never be the parent who lavishes praise on their child for merely existing. I vow to never be this person nor the parent who offers unsolicited advice to others. Rather than project my own experiences onto someone else, I simply smile at the baby, say “Congratulations.”