What NOT to Say to a Parent
And please don’t touch my baby either!
-Julie Ryan Evans
“She so fat!” my housekeeper proclaimed the other week upon seeing my 3-month-old daughter.
I was taken back a bit, but given her limited English and her sweet nature, I dismissed it.
But there are a lot of people out there speaking perfect English, who make comments like that and worse every day when I’m out and about with my children. Those, I don’t dismiss them quite so easily. In fact, they irk me quite a bit.
Yes, my daughter is plump, healthy, roly-poly, rubber-band arms and legs, cheeks that weigh a pound each, and I love it. I love every roll, crease, chubby bunch of skin that I gnaw and chomp on. But that doesn’t mean that people need to point it out.
Oh, but they do. All. The. Time.
“Wow, she’s really, really, a healthy one,” a store clerk told me the other day.”
“Oh, she’s soooo chubby,” strangers–many of whom could shed a few pounds themselves–proclaim.
Or if they don’t want to talk about her weight, it’s the mop of black, admittedly untamable, hair she sports. The permanently affixed array of bows doesn’t do much to help.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh, look at that hair!” “Wow, I’ve never seen so much hair on a baby!” “She sure has a lot of hair.” … followed by silence. Not followed by “oh, it’s so cute,” or “oh, it’s beautiful.” Just, “Oh look at all that…” then crickets chirping.
I know most people mean well, they just don’t speak well. So they shouldn’t speak at all … isn’t there a saying about that? But something about children makes everyone want to comment.
Silence is OK, really.
Which brings me to my next, probably even bigger, pet peeve–why on earth do people feel the need to guess children’s ages?
“How old are you, 3? A woman on an elevator asks of my 5-year-old who knows how old he is and that he doesn’t want to be thought of as a “baby.”
“So let me guess, she’s got to be about 6 months,” a woman in line at the market guesses of my 3-month-old.
It’s such a bad game, and it almost always feeds a parent’s and/or child’s insecurities about his or her size. And you wouldn’t believe how bad people are at this game–seriously, a week after someone guessed Nolan was 3, someone else guessed he was 7. I’ve talked to more parents, especially those of older children who are either big or small for their age, who have been really hurt by such comments.
Moreover, it’s just a completely pointless, fruitless effort. Even if you’re close or right, guess what? THERE ARE NO POINTS FOR GUESSING RIGHT! There is no prize for best-child-age-guesser (though I think there may be carnivals that hire for that sort of thing). So why even try and risk the hurt you could cause?
And while I’m ranting, I’ll just throw out one more major annoyance that’s going to make me lose my sh&t little pet peeve. Do NOT grab my infant daughter’s hands. Especially do not do this when we’re in the middle of a WORLDWIDE SWINE FLU PANIC.
I really thought this was something people USED to do–you know, before swine flu, before hand sanitizers galore and handwashing signs in every public restroom. Back when people might not have known better! But no, the same people who are hoarding surgical masks are the same ones that don’t skip a beat before grabbing my daughter’s hand and rubbing it … some even WHILE remarking how fat she is.
I try to be quick to anticipate their moves and hold her hands in mine, but somehow no matter how hard I try, they get hers in their mitts. At a family gathering this weekend, I would be talking to a person on one side while holding Lila, and in slow motion I’d watch as someone would sneak up from the other side and grab the hand I wasn’t holding. Then I’d march over to the diaper bag, take out wipes and try to wipe away the germs before she stuck her hands right in her slobbery mouth.
I know I sound grumpy, and really I’m not. Most people are lovely and wonderful and full of compliments. And like I said, I’m sure most offenders don’t mean any harm. But no matter how much we try not to care what people think, it seems we always do, at least a little. So it would be nice if people were a little more cautious with their choice of words, especially around those of us who are heavy on hormones and light on sleep.
Because when Mommy finally gets showered and the children adorned in clean clothes, there’s nothing like showing your family off to the world. There’s very little feedback when it comes to parenting, very few tangible acknowledgments that we’re doing a good job. So a few words from a stranger can mean a lot … nice or not.
So tell me, what are your personal pet peeves when it comes to comments about your children?
Read more of Julie’s blog here.