Parenting advice I’ll actually listen to…

Recently, I was given a delightful lecture on all that I was doing wrong with my children.  This person told me that my children “acted spoiled” and “aren’t disciplined” and if I don’t do something about it very soon I’m going to have “a real problem on my hands.”  This advice was unsolicited by me, of course.  This advice came out of nowhere as heddy warning of my horrible future fate as a parent who has obliviously screwed up big time.  I mean, really.  Who would ever want to hear anything like that?  Would any parent go around asking random people, “Can you please tell me how I suck as a parent?  So far, I have a list of a hundred things I’m doing wrong, but I’m sure your keen eye could help me find more.”

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I was completely offended by this advice assault.  I was hurt and sick to my stomach.  I questioned all my choices to see if what this person had to say was in any way true or accurate.  When I was relating this story to a friend, she asked, “Does the person who said this have kids?”

No.  This person isn’t even a parent.

My friend smiled and said, “Well, forget it then.  They have no idea what they’re talking about.”  Which is true.  The whole time this person was talking about my parenting skills, all I could think was, “You have no clue what it’s really like to be a parent.”

And that got me thinking — As soon as you get pregnant, the advice train arrives from all destinations and it never, ever stops.  And some of this advice I take and some of it I do not — and it’s not based on the advice itself (Your baby needs a hat!) — It’s solely based on the person giving me the advice.  Are they qualified to give me advice?  Are they a parent?  Do they have children with similar ages and temperaments as mine?  Have they walked in my shoes?  The advice could be really great, but if the person giving it isn’t relatable to me, I don’t take it.

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That’s why I decided to compile an official list of who can give parenting advice to whom.  I feel like these advice assaults happen daily to unsuspecting parents all over the world and we need to set some guidelines.  If you’re about to have a baby, I suggest you laminate this list and stick it on your fridge or maybe hand it out at your baby shower.  This list will be handy for years to come —

People who are Allowed to give me Parenting Advice

Childless People — You can keep your mouth shut.  I’m serious.  Unless my kids are on fire and I don’t notice it, I don’t want to hear a word from you people.  Look, I get it.  You think you know what you’re talking about.  You’ve spent your whole life surrounded by parents making grievous mistakes with their children and you know exactly what you would and wouldn’t do if you ever had kids.  Well, I have news for you —  Every person thinks the way you think before they have kids.  And then you have kids and that silly notion pops right out of your head.  Maybe it’s the lack of sleep or maybe it’s how you feel love in a more powerful way than you’ve ever felt before, but kids just humble you.  Period.  I know you’re probably not going to listen to me and just keep on giving the rest of us advice, but we’re never going to listen.  If you’ve never been to war, don’t advice to a soldier.  

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People with an only girl — This is really only one step up from childless people.  You may give advice, but only to other people with an only girl.  That’s because girls are easy.  I have a girl.  She’s totally awesome.  And unlike my boys, my daughter has never peed in the ice cream maker, hit me in the face with a rubber arrow or put the garden hose in the washing machine “just to see what would happen.”  I long for and appreciate the quiet, glitter fairy world that you and your only girl live in, but we are very different islands in the parenting sea and your advice, unless it’s about my daughter, will fall on deaf ears.

People with an only boy —  Your life is harder than people with an only girl, but still, one child is one child.  Yes, your boy will run around and terrorize things, but because he has no siblings, he will always be outnumbered by parents.  This simple fact that it’s two against one lessens your cred with other parents.  That’s probably fine with you — you’re too busy playing Mindcraft and heading off to Legoland with your boy anyway…

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People with two children, same sex —  If you have two boys close in age, you really know a lot about keeping small, wild things alive and fed.  You’re welcome to give advice to anyone with boys or even to a zoo or animal rescue facility.  If you have two girls, then you’re a great person to give advice about all manner of cute whimsical birthday parties and what’s the best detangling shampoo.  And if these two boys or two girls happen to be twins, well, you’ve bumped yourself up to a new level of advice giving — mostly in the area of sleep deprivation and double strollers.

People with two children, opposite sex — Congratulations!  You are now qualified to give a variety of advice to other parents.  Your knowledge is far reaching and you’ve been sufficiently schooled in the fact that some boy and girl stereotypes are true.  This doesn’t make you pigeon-hole children, not at all!  But it does give you the wisdom necessary to help other parents when they come to you for advice.  Don’t get cocky though.  People with three or more children will only take your advice about eighty percent of the time.  Your best bet is to pontificate to parents with onlys.  You will be like a god to them.

People with three or more children, all girls — Okay, you can write a book about girls.  You could teach a college-level course about girls.  And if all of your girls are grown and you’ve successfully survived their teenage years?  Well, then, I’m just going to sit down on a big, fluffy cushion in front of you and take notes.  Just don’t give me advice on my boys.  Let’s stick to what you know.

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People with three or more children, all boys — Okay, you can write a book about boys.  That is, if you’re not too busy trying to get the stinky dirty sock smell out of your house.  Have you ever met parents that have raised a pack of boys?  They’re like the toughest people on the planet — steely-eyed, grizzled — a building could fall down around them and they wouldn’t even flinch.  I admire them and would happily take their advice on just about anything — except my girl.  I know a guy that was one of eight boys.  I would love to meet his mother and ask her advice on things, but I’m not sure she can still speak.

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People with three or more children, boys and girls — This is actually me (two boys, one girl) and I have found that the more children I have, the less advice I give.  I have come full circle from being a childless person who was very pious and judgmental of parents, to now, when I have no judgements towards other parents at all — only sympathy.  Only understanding.  My husband’s Aunt Betty raised a bunch of kids, boys and girls, and whenever I ask her advice about some insane behavior one of my kids is doing, Aunt Betty just smiles and shrugs and says, “They’ll grow out of it.”

Now that’s good advice.

23 Comments

  • sturgmom says:

    My mother-in-law raised 3 boys (all born within 3 years, 2 days). She gives similar advice as Aunt Betty: It will get better.

    Then she laughs.

  • S says:

    Great advice! I’d add a category for special needs kids too. My son is autistic and non verbal. Among his many challenges is a very limited diet (common among kids with complicated sensory issues).

    If one more non parent gives me lecture about how Goldfish crackers are empty calories

    or another parent of a healthy girl tells me (unsolicited) that the daughter used to be a picky eater (like for a whole summer wouldn’t eat broccoli or kale – the horror!!), but they fixed it with smoothies made in their Vitamix…..

    I’m just going to lose it.

    • Holly Hester says:

      That is so true! Food advice is the worst! Especially if you have a picky eater — “Don’t give in. If they don’t eat their dinner then they go to bed hungry! They’ll learn!” I’ve heard that one a million times.

  • Absolutely hilarious, Holly! I love it!

  • B.C says:

    Currently we’re at girl-boy-boy, and man is it a trip! As far as advice from the childless, what they don’t seem to get is that even if they are *right* they should still shut their mouths. Because they have no authority. I have absolutely no reason to trust their input. If I am packing for the AT I am going to take gear advice from someone who has done the hike.

    On a similar note, I do wish that strangers would please stop approaching me and asking me to double dog pinky promise to not ever have any more children, because, three oh-my-god, how could you? Panic, panic, word vomit.

    • Holly Hester says:

      That’s so true. It’s about having the authority to give the advice. I’ve never had anyone ask me to promise not to have any more children! That’s so insulting! I’m sorry.

  • Vicki Kavanaugh says:

    Holly,you made me laugh!! Not easy on a day when I spent it away from my (only) two kids-girl and boy- but you definitely were right on!! I shudder to think how girly our house would have been if our 2nd had been a girl, instead of the roughest, most active boy I have ever known!! And I NOW say that those that are “blessed” with boys and girls are the lucky ones!

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’m glad I have a mix of kids because it really made me shut up in the advice department! I totally get it now and would never give anyone advice!

  • Tricia says:

    My LLL leader when my first was a newborn said, “I’m always skeptical of parenting advice from people with fewer children than me.” She had four.

    I figure, if you tell me what worked for you in a nice, humble way, I’ll listen and take it under advisement. If you tell me the one right way to do things, I’m not listening, and I’m probably mad.

  • Kristi says:

    This made me chuckle because it is true for the most part. I know everyone faces different challenges, but as a mom to two boys and two girls, I am very forgiving of almost any behavior I see in someone else’s children, because I know I am only seeing a moment in time of their parenting that happens 24/7 forever. Even if I don’t agree with what they are doing, it is none of my business!

  • angela says:

    Oh, and I will say that if I dress nicely, and have my hair/makeup/jewellery on, I get better treatment when out with my children. Since this is a fashion blog mostly, would you say you observed being treated differently dressed in the different styles? I remember Euro chic seem to have a daunting effect. ;)

  • angela says:

    So true! When I meet a mom of 3, ( I am one) I say, “ah! You’re in the club. You get it.”. Parenting is one long guilty lonely endeavor in the current culture. Keep that stiff upper lip. Nobody knows what your kids need but you!

  • Heather says:

    Hi Holly,
    I love your blog. I have to say, however, that I have two girls who are both like Dennis the Menace. They have completely humbled me. They love arguing, fart jokes, catching bugs and having gross-out contests alongside singing songs together and playing dress up. They have never been “easy.” They have made me tougher and challenged ideas about gender stereotypes I didn’t even realize I had. I’m proud to have such powerful girls. Also, I’m really tired.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’m so glad you commented. I did feel like I was stereotyping kids in this post and I’m sorry. I never stereotype kids in real life — my oldest son wore a dress when he was five for almost a year! I didn’t care in the slightest. I think I stereotyped because I was trying to be funny and also the other day this parent that has only one daughter gave me advice on how my boys shouldn’t pee on the toilet seat at our house. All this expert advice on something they HAVE NO IDEA about! And they made it sound so easy — like if I only tried a little bit harder, my boys would stop peeing on the seat. So I was coming from that angle — but I know girls are just as hard as boys! Thanks for your input.

  • Lesia says:

    Hey Holly,
    I fit into the last category and know the feeling – parenting three kids of mixed gender has humbled me and silenced me when it comes to giving advice. I’m sure many people would say the same thing if they saw me out with my kids, and I know how hurtful that would be. I love your Aunt Betty’s counsel and will keep that in mind, along with the advice not to wish away the kids’ childhood that I’ve received from my Aunt Astrid.
    Lesia

Comments? Fire away.