My four-month-old was scheduled for a well visit with the nurse practitioner the other day. We had an 8:00 a.m. appointment, so I brought my two-year-old along so that I could bring both kids to daycare immediately afterward and then head to work. When I’m out with the kids, I usually think to bring not only extra diapers and wipes, but a change of clothes in case a poopy blow-out happens. For whatever reason, this time I forgot the change of clothes. You can probably guess where this is heading.

As the nurse was finishing helping me clean up before heading out the door, the nurse practitioner entered and observed me still struggling to pack away the poop-stained onesie and organize the rest of my stuff, as my toddler clung to my legs asking for “uppies.” It wasn’t really all that bad, just a curveball thrown at me given that baby was now missing a onesie and I would now need to drive her to daycare and carry her in wearing only pants and a bib, hoping no one noticed on the way in.

As I was contemplating this, I placed baby on her back on the exam table, and turned my body slightly to my right, leaning over to place the plastic bag of poopy onesie in my diaper bag. Baby was never out of my sight, just slightly to the left of me and well within my peripheral vision.

The nurse practitioner, standing across the room, said “Put your hand on your baby and just make sure she doesn’t fall. We don’t want babies rolling off of the exam table here.”

If I had not been distracted by the poopy mess and the toddler clinginess, I would have let out a snarky comment about how thankful I was that someone told me that babies can roll off of exam tables. You know, because I’ve only had two kids and still have no idea how to keep them safe. It’s amazing my kids manage to survive at my neglectful hands. But instead I ignored her and we got on with the check-up.

This nurse practitioner tends to be a bit uptight anyway, and she probably had the best intentions and in no way meant to come off as patronizing. But I was annoyed nonetheless. Why can’t people just trust that mom knows what she’s doing? I was a bit distracted, but not so much that I left my indeed-very-rolly-baby completely unattended.

On the other hand, everyone has their weird paranoid things, especially when it comes to children. Maybe it’s just a manifestation of our strong survival instincts. Long before I had kids, and perhaps even still, I would totally freak out about other people’s kids choking on stuff. Anything. Food they were supposed to be eating, food they weren’t supposed to be eating, stuff on the ground within reach of a crawling baby, stuff dangling overhead that might fall into a kid’s mouth — choking was my weird paranoid thing, and luckily, I seem to have let go of this fear a little bit and just trust that the mom in the room is vigilant and knows what her own kid can handle.

Have you ever felt patronized by a well-meaning bystander who assumed that the worst would happen if she didn’t point out what you were apparently doing wrong? Have you ever made what you thought was a helpful suggestion to a parent, and later realized that maybe your advice wasn’t so invited? In my scenario, was I right to be annoyed at the suggestion that I keep a hand on my baby, or was this just someone taking extra caution, being unable to tell whether I was being cautious enough?

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