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.”
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.