Is there anything more polarizing and controversial than parenting? I ask because I honestly haven’t found a single thing-including politics, which I absolutely abhor-that can get my hackles up more. Well-not the parenting itself, but the comments that people feel the need to make.
For instance, why is it okay for someone to randomly touch a pregnant woman’s belly? Hah that’s right, it’s not. But still some people feel the need to do just that. And once they molest the poor pregnant woman (a demographic by they way that I feel should be feared and revered) they feel the need to ask how far along she is or when the baby’s due. And then comes the kicker. There is never a nice comment that follows. It’s always something about how they’ve gained too much or gained too little, or look too big or look too small, or if she’s sure it’s not twins or if she might just have an eating disorder.
There’s also the inevitable question of whether the pregnancy was planned which just gets increasingly more disbelieving with every subsequent child. Ryan was just over a year old when we found out that we were pregnant with Erik and people were up in arms. Erik was less than a year when we found out about Remy and holy crap! The most amusing ones were when someone would say “Wow, you certainly have your hands full!” Cause-ya know-I couldn’t tell. Then the inevitable comments about “you know how that happens right?” Those were fun since I don’t have a modest bone in my body. Generally with those I’d answer with a lewd regard about how good we were at it or something about doing it in a certain position to get whatever gender I felt like saying. People tended to recoil pretty damn quick,
It’s also remarkable to me how many people feel the need to come up and give criticism to parents out in public. Maybe it’s just the area that I happen to live in because it seems to happen quite frequently to me. Or maybe I just look like someone who invites the comments of random strangers…who knows.
I have three memorable ones.
The first was when I was pregnant with Ryan. I was all of 21 at the time since it was before my birthday and had very little idea of what I was in store for. Mike worked in a hospital at the time and I’d routinely go to visit him for lunch or just to pop in. One of these times, I just happened to duck into the bathroom on the first floor since I of course had to pee AGAIN. After I did what I had to do I was washing my hands and a lady leaves the stall behind me and comes up to wash her hands as well. She glanced over at me and I noticed the disapproving face she wore (I looked much younger than I was and she probably thought I was some teenager in trouble) but then she caught a glint of my wedding band and her face smoothed out. I thought that was the end of it, but as it went to dry my hands she felt the need to strike up a conversation. By the way, I will say this-anyone who strikes up a random convo with a random stranger in a random bathroom gets my official stamp of weirdness. Anyhoo-she asked how far along I was and I answered 7 months. She then proceeded to look down her nose at me (not hard since I’m so damn short!) and ask pointedly whether I planned to breastfeed or not. I stammered out an “I’m not sure” since at the time I wanted to but wasn’t sure how it was going to go, being a first time mom and all. Well apparently that set off her “I must preach my heart out” alarm and she began lecturing me about how formula was the root of all evil and would make my kid retarded (I kid you not, she said that!) and I would be irreparably crippling them for life. I just blinked at her. As my brain clicked back into motion, I remembered a book I’d read a few weeks before and my mouth opened with my reply before I could stop it. Blame it on the pregnancy hormones. I patted her arm and said “oh no, you misunderstood. I’m not sure whether I’m keeping it.” And as her brain imploded in on itself, I casually left the bathroom.
My second memorable one happened in Target when I was pregnant with Remy. I had Erik in the cart and was feeding him the lovely popcorn that Target has. (Seriously. It’s like movie theater popcorn and I have NO idea what makes it so good,,.maybe they sprinkle crack on it or something.) So we’re casually meandering through the store and this lady runs up to me, panting and everything, and starts berating me about how irresponsible I am for letting my toddler eat popcorn. You would have thought I was giving him razor blades to play with. Never mind the fact that I was handing him one piece at a time and watching him….no no no I’m irresponsible. The fact that she then sprinted halfway across the store to where her little one was strapped into an abandoned cart was in no way the same thing…
Third and I think the most hilarious was a month and half ago I think. We were out and about somewhere (the mall I believe) and I had Remy in her carseat and Erik was playing in the play area. He came over for a hit of boob which I gladly relinquished. I wish I could tell you that THAT is what had someone up in arms, but I can’t. Well I can but that’s not the point of this particular story. After Erik finished his few sips, I dragged Remy’s fussy butt out of the carseat and situated her on a boob. Mind you she was about 2 months old at this point. Some lady casually wanders over and said something about how cute my baby was and how old was he. An okay slip since Remy was wearing her brother’s hand me downs, so I politely said that SHE was 2 months. As a look of horror crossed the lady’s face I thought I was in for it over dressing her like a boy. But no. She proceeded to tell me how I was turning Remy into a lesbian since I was breastfeeding her and only boys should be breastfed. In fact boys who had formula would turn out to be gay since sucking on a bottle was the equivalent of sucking on a dick.
My blank stare must have tipped her off that I did not in fact agree so she began repeating her delusions. That’s when I slowly unlatched Remy, called Erik over and packed us up (while she was still ranting at me, mind you) and then I said that I’d be glad to meet my daughter’s girlfriend someday. Her look of horror followed us out.
I’m in no way begrudging her herown opinion. Have at it. If she thinks breastfeeding is going to make me glow a radioactive green, so what. But coming to preach at me is not okay.
My point, and yes there is one, is that when you’re an outsider looking in, there are only a few responses that are appropriate.
To a pregnant woman: Congratulations! (That’s it, there is nothing else that needs to be said unless she offers more commentary.)
To a parent: …nothing. No comments needed.
That’s it. I can not think of any other situations that call for commentary. So-keep that in mind the next time you see a pregnant woman or a parent. :o)