We’ve all been there. You’re standing in line at the grocery store, minding your own business, maybe scanning the tabloid headlines as you think about what to make for dinner. Suddenly, you see someone, usually either a much older woman or a childless woman, smile knowingly and start to spout unsolicited advice about parenting. “Your poor baby”, she begins as she grabs your baby’s tiny fingers with her goodness-knows-what infested hands, “No shoes on those sweet little feet, just those thin little socks. He must be freezing!”. You ponder an icy stare, perhaps a lecture on pediatric podiatry and the fact that your baby does not yet even stand, or a note about the 80 degree temperatures outside, but take a breath and laugh it off.
There are some things that strangers say to moms of young children that I just cannot figure out. I’m not talking about discussions between friends with children of similar ages where you’re bouncing ideas off each other, I’m talking about complete and utter strangers who feel it’s their duty to share little pearls of uninvited wisdom with you about what you might be doing wrong in your job as a mom. Here are my least favorite ones:
1. Are you nursing or feeding formula?
Um, why do you care? I guarantee I am indeed feeding him. Look at those chub rolls! From what I’ve seen, perfect strangers seem to really care quite a lot about what I’m doing or not doing with my boobs.
2. Wow, he’s so tiny! / Wow, he’s enormous!
My first son was, and is, a big guy. People constantly told me he was huge, and I constantly wondered if they were implying that I was overfeeding him. My second son is average, and I’ve had several people comment on how incredibly tiny he is. Both have shaken my confidence.
3. How is he sleeping?
When I was a bit greener in my job as a mommy, I would answer this honestly when strangers asked (and they do, often!). I’d say “Oh not that well yet, still up a few times at night”. I once got a 15 minute lecture from a woman in a bagel shop about how I was ruining my child for life (who was 5 WEEKS old, by the way) because I didn’t let him cry it out. I’ve since come up with the stock answer “Like a baby!”. If you have/had a baby…you know what this really means 😉
4. What percentile is he in?
Not kidding. More than one time I’ve had women ask what growth percentile my child falls into, as if this is normal, every day chit-chat.
5. He seems like a mamma’s boy.
No, he’s smart. Just because my 3 year old refuses to talk to a total stranger staring into the window of his little grocery store car on the front of the shopping cart doesn’t make him a mamma’s boy (not that there’s anything wrong with mamma’s boys, by the way!). He just doesn’t talk to people he doesn’t know and who are in his personal space for no good reason.
6. Anything that starts with “What you really need to try is…” and finishes with parenting advice.
An older woman in the check out line, who I had never even seen before mind you, once asked why my then 9 month old was so small. I answered, “He’s actually dead-on average sized, so I’m not worried.” I thought this was a pretty polite yet clear “Let’s discuss something else” response, but she followed up with lengthy advice about how, “What you really need to do is buy the pureed meats and vegetables and put them with a little formula, and maybe even some rice cereal, into a bottle. Just enlarge the hole in the nipple a bit, and let him have that so he can grow a little faster. He’s much too old to be nursing.” I was speechless.
What are your obnoxious stranger questions? I’d love to hear them!