Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unsolicited

It will never cease to amaze me how many people lack an off switch. Who can't help but run their mouths. Who believe that whatever they are thinking needs to be magically converted into spoken words. Who have no qualms about speaking those words. Who love to give unsolicited advice.

I suppose that for the most part, they think they are being helpful. They may have the best of intentions, if they actually think that they are providing some kind of service to others. That they have some special kind of insight to give. That they know more about something than you do. That they can tell you how to do better. How to fix something. How to prevent something. What to do.

There are people like this everywhere for sure. In almost ever facet of life, they are there. Always. But it seems like they multiply when you have a child for the first time. It's entirely possible that it is just the heightened awareness and sensitivity of a new parent, yes. But I think that most people would tend to agree with me. You will get more unsolicited advice in those years of your life than any other. Those years which start running the second that other people know you are trying to get pregnant. And it never really ends. At some point, most people begin to back off as your kids get older. Or maybe you just figure out that they don't really know better and stop listening. Nodding your head, pretending to listen, totally disregarding everything they say the instant it passes their lips.

One thing that I was completely unprepared for when we got married was the fact that trying to get pregnant would be one of the most difficult times in my life. No one ever tells young couples, newly married and looking forward to the future, that it might not be as easy as they think to have a baby. And no one ever tell you that one of the hardest things in the world is not being pregnant when you want to be. And, unfortunately, people say a lot of stupid things when you are in that place. Things that they intend to be helpful, but hurt. People tell you what to eat, what not to eat. People tell you not to exercise, or to do certain things. And some people are even crazy enough to tell you how to do it. As if the simple mechanics of it all were hard to understand, and you needed a little help there.

Then when you do get pregnant, the advice multiplies overnight. People want to tell you everything about everything. Where to have the baby. Some tell you to go natural. Others tell you that drugs are great. They tell you that you have to this, you have to do that. That if you do anything else, somehow you are shortchanging your child. This is best.

Once the baby shows up, you are literally assaulted with a barrage of advice. Bottles, pacifiers, crib bumpers, breastfeeding. Everyone has an opinion about all of it. And half of them contradict the other half. But everyone knows best. What it seems that no one ever tells you during this time is that as a mother, you automatically have instinct. And that instinct is almost always going to be right. And that this child is different than any other child ever born to any of the advice givers. And that, by extension, they really aren't qualified to give you any advice about this kid.

Even now, there are times. After four kids and years of experience parenting my own vastly different children, there are still people who presume to tell me that they know better. Who must possess some magic powers that bestow upon them the ability to know my kids better than I do. Who are sorely mistaken.

I am always amused by people who give out advice, and do so convincingly. Who manage to sway other mothers. Who conjure up doubt in the heads of those who really should know better. Who pass on incorrect information. Who scare other people into thinking they are right. Please, everyone, do us all a favor. Wait for us to ask your opinion. If we don't ask, we don't need it. And if we don't need it, we sure don't want it. Really.

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