Do moms get parenting advice pretty much everywhere they go?
Because if you’re a stay-at-home dad, people will be sure to let you know you’re doing everything wrong seemingly everywhere you go.
It gets old. Fast.
From having someone try to actually grab my baby away and “teach” me how to hold her at play group to someone tsk-tsking my menu decisions at a nice restaurant, I’ve seen and heard it all.
I get it on some level, I do. People are trying to be friendly or helpful or maybe just start a conversation, and it might come out wrong or be taken in a way that wasn’t intended. But there are times when it’s perfectly clear: they don’t think you know what the hell you’re doing, and the world has appointed them to show you.
In these moments, I usually offer a congenial “thanks” and go the other way. But there are times — boy, are there times — when I want to let the snarky comebacks fly. Usually I let it fly on the way home, however, because I don’t have the mental capacity to come up with a good zinger in the moment or care to engage in verbal warfare in front of the kid.
The French have a phrase for this: “Espirit d’escalier,” or wit of the staircase, because you always think of great things to say while walking away. So I wanted to pair some of my favorite tidbits of unsolicited advice I’ve received over the years while out with my daughter with the things I wish I had said. If you can think of better retorts, and I’m sure you can, I’d be thrilled to hear them … for the next time someone harasses me at the mall.
Airplanes 1 of 7These are the worst. You're held captive for several hours, unable to get away from parenting talk, when all you want to do is spend five peaceful hours reading a book. On one childless flight, a dad spent 30 minutes telling me how to baby proof a room. What I said: "Bumpers? On the furniture? All of the furniture? Go on, I'm listening." What I wanted to say: "Do you carry bubble wrap for when the kid goes outside? Good god, man, he could FALL!"
Online 2 of 7I vented about something on Facebook and a casual acquaintance said I needed "better time management skills." What I said: Nothing. Clicked the "Like" button. What I wanted to say: "You just solved all my life's problems in two sentences. You're like the Anne Sullivan of Facebook!"
Ballparks 3 of 7A friendly enough woman leaned over a couple chairs and pointed out two playground slides clearly visible beyond the right field fence. What I said: "Cool, thanks." What I wanted to say: "What? There's a playground here? You mean those big slide-looking thingies right in front of us? Yeah, thanks. But I think it's baseball time at the ballpark."
Bars 4 of 7When I used to drink, I remember getting the strangest advice from people, especially those without kids at all. One young, childless guy was going on and on about how awesome spanking was and how not enough parents were doing it nowadays. "Sometimes you just have to let them have it," he insisted. What I said. "I'll remember to beat the crap out of her every now and then just to let her know I care." What I wanted to say: "I'll remember to beat the crap out of her every now and then just to let her know I care." (Hey, score one for booze!)
Grocery Stores 5 of 7A woman thrust a box of Annie's crackers into my hands. "She needs to have these," the woman said, motioning to my daughter. What I said: "We like Goldfish, thanks." What I wanted to say: "Aww, that's sweet. You assume I feed her on Tuesdays!"
Restaurants 6 of 7A woman actually looked over and clucked her tongue when I ordered my daughter macaroni and cheese. What I said: Nothing. I just gave her a quizzical look, met by her rolling eyes, followed by silence. What I wanted to say: "Seriously? Macaroni and cheese is on the terrorist watch list now? Have you never been a child?"
Playgrounds 7 of 7An elderly nanny pushed me out of the swing path and spent five minutes showing me how to make "proper" faces at my swinging baby. What I said: "Ha ha. Oh, cute." (Checks watch) What I wanted to say: "Are you having a stroke?"
Slideshow photos: Morguefile