How not to annoy other parents
I've had a think about part two of what books about parenting ought to say (a sequel to what not to say to pregnant women), and can't go past what parents really shouldn't say to each other. And yes, I have been guilty of some of these in the past. And yes, that makes me a giant, smug, hypocrite. But no, that won't stop me compiling this list anyway. So here goes:
1. My baby rolled/sat/walked/recited to one hundred in Mandarin while standing on his head juggling flaming sticks at your baby's age. Especially when anyone with eyes and ears can clearly see that your baby or child cannot do these things. Except the one with the flaming sticks. In that situation you could always lie and say that you accidentally left them at home.
2. Feigned concern. This often follows the point above, when the other parent pretends like they're concerned by saying something like "oh, he can't roll yet, are you worried?", but they can't keep the glee from their eyes as their progeny performs rolls so impressive the Circus will call at any minute. Not to be confused of course with real concern, which is lovely.
3. Just wait until they're older! Usually said when something is going well and I've noted how much I am enjoying my children. I hate this because it's dis-empowering, as if someone has older children, I can never catch up. When my children are older their children will be older still, so the "just wait until they're older" comments will probably continue until I'm in a rest home and my children in their 60s. ("You think your son's hip operation was expensive? Just wait until he has to draw down a pension etc etc")
4. You're at home with the kids? Oh I'd love to do that but need to use my brain. OR You're a working mum? No, that's not for me, I'd miss my kids too much. As a disclaimer, I am aware women have civilised and pleasant conversations about the working issue all of the time, and have had many myself. As a rule, though, it's a minefield. Especially when a certain smarmy tone is adopted when saying either of the above. At best, you'll make the recipient angry. At worst, you'll make them feel really bad about themselves. It's such a shame that so many people aren't able to recognize that someone making a different decision to them doesn't make their rationale for doing things their way any less worthy. Most parents just want what's best for their kids and their family, and decisions about work and childcare aren't made lightly. I've been a working mum and I've been a stay at home mum and both have their highs and lows, and neither decision justifies scorn and judgement. 5. In my day ... I know that in your day, you may have made your children walk to school wearing barbed-wire shoes in either the blistering sun or the freezing snow (it seems temperature was never mild back then) and they weren't harmed, but the world has changed an awful lot since then. If it hadn't, this blog would barely have any entries at all. And anyway, my parents wouldn't have done some things that they did do had they known it was potentially dangerous, like sleeping me face down on a sheepskin. As my earlier entries on the sun and forming good toilet habits point out as well, some advice from "back in the day" is well and truly dated. 6. That's such a waste of money. Every parent has different priorities for spending money and has different ways of showing their children that they love them, and it's all too easy to judge other parents on how they spend money on their children. I tend to spend money on experiences for my kids such as the zoo, swimming lessons, and music classes, rather than toys. Some other parents spend the same on toys, or cute outfits, but choose not to do structured activities. Some parents try and spend nothing at all. There is no right or wrong, unless a parent is buying expensive gadgets for their children when the children have no food. 7. My baby slept through from two days/my toddler has never hit another child/my eight year old always listens to me ALL BECAUSE of my parenting! Usually, parents say this to each other in a more subtle way, but the meaning is the same: their children's brag-worthy attributes are all down to parenting. Not luck or coincidence or temperament of the child. I admit to being guilty of this myself - I thought I was the evening-routine maestro given how good my son settled. It took doing exactly the same for a second child who had other ideas to realise how very wrong I was. In a way it's a pity to have been thrown from my self-made smug pedestal, as it's nice when a dose of self-serving bias allows you to tell yourself that you're awesome. But at least now other parents are less likely to want to slap me. 8. My child would never do that. Even if it's true, saying so out loud might get some passive aggressive glares of rage in your direction. 9. My child isn't allowed to eat that. Again, it may be true, but being told this while my child is at that very moment eating the food in question won't win you friends. Is there anything else I've missed?