Some of you may know this about me, and some may have even witnessed it first hand. I seem to attract an abnormal amount of unsolicited parenting advice. Really, I do. Well, not as much anymore. Maybe since I have 3 kids now people assume that my bad parenting comes from just having too many kids to take care of or maybe I look crankier and they don't want to take the chance of having their head bit off. Whatever it is, I don't get approached as much as I used to, which is a good thing. Now, I have no problem with someone giving me advice when I ask for it, or from a friend who I know is just trying to help and has my kids' best interests at heart. But strangers?! Come on, people. Some old lady griped at me last night in the women's locker room of the YMCA. Let me set this up for you: I had taken the kids to the drop-in nursery while I went to water aerobics. Then I was going to go get them and take them all to family swim. Usually I get a locker in the family locker room, but since I was alone at first, I just went into the women's because the family locker room is always crowded and there aren't as many showers, etc. Halfway through my class, one of the staff from the nursery came to tell me that I was going to have to take Sam. He hadn't stopped screaming the whole time and they had tried everything. No problem-it happens. So, I got all the kids at that time and just took them into the women's locker room with me to get them changed so they could swim. Sam was still upset and the girls were being themselves (read:onery). I was trying to hurry so we didn't bother anyone. On our way out of the locker room, a naked old lady stopped me and says with a sour look on her face, "Boys are not allowed in this locker room." My first thought was, "Um, he's ONE! I'm not sure that really qualifies." I just told her I was sorry and kept walking. I'm pretty sure I have a couple of holes in my back from the burning glare she gave me as I walked away. She probably should have been more concerned about my 3 year old daughter who started laughing and said, "Mommy, she has big boobs!" I'm quite sure that there will be a comment put in the comment box regarding males in the women's locker room. This doesn't really count as advice, per se, but it still rankles me. The rest of the story is that the family pool was shut down because someone pooped in there and I ended up in the 4 ft deep lap pool with 3 kids clinging to me like monkeys. Bless my friends and their husbands who have a more reasonable number of children and could help me keep mine at the top of the water. Anyway, here are a couple more examples that I can think of:
Audrey was about 11 months old and we were getting ready to move to Georgia. One morning before taking Audrey to day care and going to work, we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast. I had put her in the highchair and was tearing up bits of pancake for her and putting it directly on the tray (after I had wiped it down of course) when an older lady-it's always an older lady-came over and told me that I really should get her a plate because otherwise she's never going to learn to eat off of a plate. Really? Never? If I give her a plate, here's what's gonna happen--with one flick of the little fat wrist, all of her food will be on the floor when she dumps her plate over. I have a hard time believing that by not giving my infant a plate for her food, at 25 years of age, she will still be trying to slurp her food directly off of the table. I'm pretty sure she picked up the whole plate concept shortly thereafter and I don't think that she's any worse for wear.
When Katie was 2 months old and we were preparing to move from Arizona to Arkansas, we decided to take a little camping trip to see the Grand Canyon, Zion, Lake Powell and some other stuff before we left that part of the world. Zion was one of our last stops. One evening, I had taken the girls for a walk while Vince was trying to get supper going. Katie was in the stroller and was starting to get pretty upset because she was hungry. I was trying to make my way back to the campsite as quickly as I could because she was really beginning to howl. An older lady flagged me down and told me that the reason Katie was crying was because her feet were cold and if I would put some socks on her, she would stop crying. Um, thanks lady. It's at least 80 degrees out here and she hasn't had any booby in about 4 hours, so I'm pretty sure socks are the least of her worries right now. Sheesh!
Apparently Katie's temperature was of great concern to the general old lady public because not too long after that when we were in Arkansas another similar incident occurred. It was in the fall and we had gone to Target. It was cool, but not cold and no one had jackets on. Katie was dressed in a long-sleeve onsie under a sweater. We were done and were loading back into the car that was parked all of 3 spaces away from the door of the store when a lady approached us and told me that I needed to put a coat on my baby because she was probably freezing. For your information, lady, she's fine. She has on 2 warm layers and has only been outside for approximately 4 seconds. I don't think she's had time to get "freezing" and if you hadn't stopped me to tell me how to dress my child, she would have only been in the cold air for 2 seconds. Usually I just say thank you and keep doing what I'm doing. For the most part, people know that they are being dismissed, but one time back in Arizona I had a lady that just wouldn't quit. We had some company and took them to this mining museum. We took the mine tour also. They gave us the obligatory mining jackets and hard hats to wear. Audrey was about 18 months old. Of course, the jacket swallowed her. It was pretty cool in the mine. I'd say around 55 or 60 degrees. Audrey did pretty well the whole tour until toward the end. She actually kept that huge coat on even though she was tripping over it and didn't have the use of her hands. But at the end, we came to this huge room and we put Audrey down to run around a bit. The jacket fell off, so I left it off. I had mine off too. And for anyone that knows Audrey, she runs hot just like her mama. We are hardly ever cold. She was having a good time playing in the dirt and looking around when--can you guess what happened next?--an older lady comes up to me and informs me that my daughter is cold and needs to have her coat on. She proceeded to tell me what the temperature was and that it was too cold for my child to be running around with no jacket on, blah, blah, blah. I just fixed a smile on my face and told her that Audrey was fine and thank you for your concern. She walked away, but wasn't done yet. She walked over to her party and started complaining very loudly about my lack of parental concern for my child who was sooo cold without her jacket on. What kind of mother would let her child go without a jacket when it was that cold? Why wasn't anyone doing anything to protect this poor, neglected child? And on and on through the rest of the tour. She could glare with the best of them.
And here's the last one that I'll post. One Christmas Eve at church, we sat down with Audrey, who was just barely 2, in our regular pew for the living nativity and service. There was an old lady sitting in the middle of our pew whom I had never seen before. We always sat at the end of the pew closest to the middle aisle so that we could make a quick escape if necessary. So, that's where we sat that night. The service lasted quite a while and although Audrey wasn't behaving great, she wasn't too bad. She was 2 and was acting like a 2 year old acts during an hour and a half long church service. Vince and I scooted apart and let Audrey play between us. At one point, she escaped past my knees and sat on the other side of me close to the old lady. She was just sitting there. The lady snatched her purse from between her and Audrey and switched it to the other side of her lap. Whatever. Like Audrey was going to steal it or something. Anyway, Audrey came back over between me and Vince and the service finally ended. The couple who sat behind us every Sunday was there and remarked about how well Audrey behaved for as long as it lasted. They were so happy that we had brought her, she was such a joy, etc. I told Vince that I didn't think Miss Snooty agreed and that she was probably going to say something to us before we left. Well, she didn't. We stopped at the grocery store before heading home and guess who we bump into? You guessed it--Miss Snooty. She comes up and says all huffy with her nose in the air, "Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but since I ran into you, I just have to tell you how horrible your child was during the services. I think that if you are going to bring a child to church, you should sit in the back so that you are not distracting everyone else. I have ADD and am hard of hearing and was so distracted by that child that I could not enjoy the service." I don't know what was said after that point because I walked away with Audrey, leaving Vince to handle it. I knew that if I stood there any longer I would have yelled, "If you have ADD and are so hard of hearing, maybe you should sit at the front of the church instead of in the middle. And, just FYI, we sit in that pew every single Sunday and if you came to church any day besides Christmas, you might have known that and would have sat somewhere else. AND, we had several people come up to us after the service and tell us how well she did during such a long service. Don't you remember what it was like to have little kids?" But I didn't think that would be appropriate. Dang.
My point is that as a mom, I already am worried about my pitiful lack of proper parenting skills. I really don't need old ladies to point out how horrible I am. I have good days and bad days just like anyone else and when I'm having a good day, no one comes up and says to me, "Wow, I think you handled that very well! What a good mom you are." Usually it's when I'm already frazzled and at the end of my patience and am just trying to make it through the day alive and without losing any children that someone will point out yet another mistake to add to that already extensive list of mishandled moments. I get it, okay? I'm doing the best I can and I feel pretty good about myself that I have kept my kids alive this long. Remember the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? Do that.
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