What NOT to Say to a Parent

The crazy and rude things people say to parents

Betty Blogger

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.


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0 thoughts on “What NOT to Say to a Parent

  1. Manicmommy says:

    I love rubber-band arms and legs on babies!

    And I was just guilty of grabbing some baby’s toes at church yesterday–A baby I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW! Those toes just begged to be touched. Does this make me one of those people you hate!?!? : )

  2. needcoffee says:

    MM-I know, it’s hard, and i used to try and get people (like little kids) to touch her toes instead, but now she’s puttting those in her mouth too, so I can’t even give an ok on those. But that being said, I would never hate YOU!

  3. MaddenWidow says:

    Never thought about the chunky baby comments as being a bad thing. I can see your point. I would want to sock someone if they told me my five year old was “solid”.

    I can’t stand the people who give the unsolicited advice. It’s one thing if I approach you on how to solve a problem but if you feel the need to step in and offer your two cents then we’re going to have a problem.

    Once when I was shopping with my then two year old who would throw the most awful tantrums. I would ignore her and do what I needed to at the grocery store. I was standing at the deli counter and the lady there asked if she could give the baby some cheese maybe that would help her quiet down. I told her no, I don’t give her anything when she’s behaving like that because she may see it as a reward and continue that behavior. I choose to ignore it instead. I bent down to pick up some bread and when I looked back up my daughter had some cheese. I was so mad.

    I don’t mind hearing tips and tricks but please don’t step in and think that because you may have raised children yourself you know all about mine and their own personality. What works for one child will not work for another.

  4. pepper56 says:

    The comments don’t bother me unless they are just plain dumb. I know one of my daughters is “solid,” one is stick thin, and the baby girl’s hair sticks straight up about 2 or 3 inches off her head. People don’t mean to hurt feelings when they say such things. And I am with MM – chubby babies are best….so cuddly!

    As for the age-guessing thing…I have 3 daughters – 6 years, 4 years and 8 months. I have had several people ask if our 6 and 4 year olds are twins. One – they don’t look alike, and Two – the oldest is a foot taller than the second!

    The touching hands deal is a big peeve of mine. I HATE it when people touch my baby’s hands, or even my older girls’ hands, to be honest. I try not to appear too rude when I get out the wipes to clean them up, but I know people must think I am a nut. And I always want to yell “Back away from the baby – get your face out of hers and your hands to yourself, and all will be fine….!”

  5. escuishi says:

    By the way… those wipes… they only kill 99% of bacteria… so that means the leave the stronger 1% on you child’s hands.
    So, every time you wipe you actually help the strong bacteria get more food and space… because you kill the “smaller” brothers that would otherwise compete with them.

  6. pepper56 says:

    The wipes are better than nothing at all when there is no soap and water available. Why would you even point that out?

  7. Scarlett says:

    I agree that it’s absolutely wrong to ever give someone’s child food when the parent has forbidden it. Not only do you not know if the kid has some kind of allergy, but it’s teaching the kid that it’s ok to take food from strangers.

    However, I also feel that it’s wrong to allow your child to throw tantrums in public and just carry about your business. I get that you want to teach your child that throwing tantrums is wrong and it won’t get what they want. However, the proper place for that lesson is at home, not a public place where you are forcing other people to listen to one of the world’s most annoying sounds: the temper tantrum of someone else’s child.

    If your child can’t go to the store without throwing a tantrum, then leave them home. Get a baby-sitter, leave them with your husband, a parent, etc. When you’re in public then the proper lesson is to teach your child how to behave in public. It is NOT ok to throw tantrums in public.

    Whenever I see a parent completely ignore a tantrum in public, I am amazed. I get that you’re trying to teach your child, but why should dozens of other people suffer, because you want to teach your child a lesson?

  8. makinlemonaide says:

    You must be very blessed to have such trivial problems.

  9. Beechbaby says:

    I have to agree with Scarlett on the tantrums. The grocery store is NO PLACE for your child to be throwing a fit. Why should I be subjected to it so you can teach your child a lesson? One of mine used to do that when she was younger. The quickest fix for the problem was to put her back in the car and take her home. I had to do this twice. When she realized I was serious the tantrums stopped in public!
    Pleas take them home!!!
    And as for touching the babies…I’ve been guilty of it myself. Passing germs has never crossed my mind. It’s extremely hard for another mom to pass up touching one of those cute cuddly healthy babies!! In the future, I will try to contain myself unless I ask first…I promise!

  10. CRD78 says:

    You people complaining about the public tantrums were/are the source of many new mothers’ anxiety attacks, including mine- thank you so much!
    First of all these women have to buy food- telling them they ought to leave is ridiculous. I understand stepping outside for a “talk” or whatever, but leaving… um, how are they going to cook dinner tonight?
    Secondly, I don’t know what magical land you live in where it’s so easy to find a sitter- but some of us have issues in that department.
    And third, babies and children exist whether you like it or not. Some are in good moods, some in bad. This is not privately guarded information but everyone acts like this one kid is acting so out of the norm. Kids cry, they get upset, they get bored, etc.
    Give these people a break, really. It is extremely stressful to have your kid screaming in the store and everyone eyeballing you like they never heard a kid cry before. I’m referring to normal acting out or crying as in from babies, toddlers so don’t get all ridiculous on me about the ones I’m not talking about that are old enough to communicate and not act like that.
    I wish we could all be understanding and supportive of each other instead of insisting small children be kept away from the public for the first 5 years of their lives.

  11. simplelife says:

    You can’t let kids scream in public. It’s not acceptable. Kids need to know that. Put your cart to the side, take them outside and have a damn good talk with them. Sternly. You are the parent. Tell them they have 5 seconds to stop or such n such is taken away. Stick with it. Or let them kick n scream outside for 5 minutes if that’s what it takes. But there must be serious consequences or they won’t learn. Of course you shouldn’t give in, but if they’re 20 months or so, they understand.

    As far as touching babies hands, people are over paranoid about germs. That’s why germs grow stronger, why more people get sick. WE try to keep everything so sterile and then are bodies don’t get the opportunity to develop natural defenses. That’s why we have the swine fluy, because of the flu shot. I was just reading about how it’s much safer for babies to eat mud then the chemical used to clean all the germs with.

    However, it is rude to just gran a babies hands when you don’t know them or the mother. Would you just walk up and touch, grab, caress, an adult’s hands or body?

    As far as the hair comments and fat comments, I think it’s people doing their best to connect. Babies look funny, they’re cute, but they are chunky and super bald, or have natural mullets. SO what if someone comments, the baby doesn’t care, you shouldn’t be so over sensitive. Now saying it to a 2 or 5 year old is a different story, because they may care and have a right to be sensitive. But babies, most moms I know talk about how their own baby has 2 chins, a mop of black hair, the peacock mohawk or “as bald as dad”. I think it’s peoples warped way of connecting. If they can’t grab babies hands or feet atleast let them say something. MOst everyone is moved by babies, I think they feel compelled to engage in some way or another, not all know how. I usually just make faces at them.

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