As a first time mom, I get quite a bit of (unsolicited) advice from friends, family and random octarians on the street. I'm not sure if I look like I won't bite their heads off, or if I really appear that inept, but I seem to attract more than my fair share of commentary when out and about with my son.
The overarching themes fall into two categories - things related to Black baby lore, and things related to my parenting "style." Now, the Black baby lore I can't do anything about - older African American men and women feel very strongly about the timing of my son's first hair cut and the number of layers of clothing he is wearing. However, all of the advice about the many ways I am spoiling my son...that is getting downright annoying.
Yes, we're still breastfeeding at age 18 month...and yes, I'm going to do it in public, and yes sometime he even *gasp* asks for it! I'm pretty sure he'll get tired of spending so much time with me before college. No, we don't use a stroller, and no, I don't think carrying him or wearing him on my back is going to stifle his independence.
My son walked at 9 months despite spending most of his time in a sling and is more than happy to take off at a fast trot away from me when I let him down. Yes, I try to avoid saying "no" too often...to the point where I actually don't think he really knows what the word means. However, he knows that there are some things that are "not for Dru" and I'm not going to let him break your things just to avoid saying no to him.
The worst part of all of this, more annoying than the lady grilling me about where my son's mittens are while I'm trying to mail a letter or the guy staring at my boobies while I'm nursing, is the fact that I'm turning into one of those know it all moms.
Just 18 months in, and I hear myself saying things like, "well the research says..." and "no, no, no...that book is all wrong. Here's the REAL way to deal with that." I find myself judging parents of babies who spend the entire dinner in their carseat and tsk-tsk-ing the feeding of solids to 4-month-olds and juice in the bottles of 6-month-olds.
I know darn well it's none of my business - I have no idea if mom has been holding that fussy baby all day and just wants to finish one meal while it's still hot or if like me, a doctor recommended starting solids early to help a baby with bad reflux keep down their milk. I don't know what support a family has or doesn't have, nor do I know what struggles each hour, day and month have brought to that family.
It's so easy to judge. Too easy. When I've had a bad momming day, being able to say "well, at least I don't do that" brings a brief moment of relief from the constant uncertainty of whether I'm playing this parenting game the right way.
But easing my mind doesn't make it right...nor does it help us mommies learn to stick together to do arguably the most rewarding but challenging task of our adult lives.
So I'll make a deal with you...I promise, for the next month, to make a concerted effort to remind myself that I don't know your story, and that what you need more than another book recommendation or disapproving stare is an extra set of hands when your stroller just doesn't want to fit in the trunk, or a smile and nod as you drag your screaming toddler out of the toy aisle.
And in return, I'll ask you to do the same for me - try not to freak out when my son unlatches and you see a few centimeters of boobage, and lend me a hand when I'm trying to strap my wiggly little guy on my back so I can shop in peace.
Though I give you totally permission to judge my ratty tennis shoes and day-old make-up...that's fair game.
What parenting issues are the most difficult for you to ignore when you're out and about? Has anyone ever said anything truly rude or hurtful about how you were handling your child in public?
Courtney is a mom living in Woodlawn.
See more of Courtney's stories here.