January 17, 2006

And It's Not Like I Tied Her To The Bumper Of The Family Truckster

Twice now in the last several months, someone has come up behind us on the street and told me to walk more slowly using the whole "give me unwelcome advice by pretending to talk to the kid" thing, and it bugs. Only, I don't know what bugs more: the passive aggressive butting in, or the implication of cluelessness that's wrapped up in such advice.

21 Comments

That so bugs! At Starbucks the other day, someone told my four-month-old son, "Mommy shouldn't be drinking a latte if she's breast feeding, should she? That's a no-no." I should have been all, "Back off, beeootch, or you'll be wearing the latte!"

Even if it's a lie, I would have said "it's decaf, so mind your own business" :)

Some old lady came up and gave my wife hell for not putting a hat on the kid once... she said "You're a very young mother so you probably don't know this..."
First of all, you try putting a hat on the kid... it'll be on the ground in two seconds, second my wife is 32 and knows a thing or two about childrearing... I guess old white ladies have a hard time telling how old asian people are. :)

Agree on the latte story/comment, but as for being told to slow down multiple times...maybe take the hint?

[being a New Yorker--aka a fast walker--I've already logged years into being hyperaware of my pace vis a vis other people I walk with, Reader, and if I thought there was a even chance I hadn't taken a hint, I wouldn't have posted the way I did. Still, your directness is much preferred to the usual on-the-street advice. -ed.]

agreed. I can take almost any advice (however cold, righteous, misguided, and unwelcome) as long as it's not addressed directly at my uncomprehending infant.

Wait, how fast are you walking exactly? I mean, were you actually endangering other lives? Or was maybe the person just suffering from the pains of vicarious exercise?

[I was walking as quickly as the kid wanted to go, which is entirely my point. -ed.]

I have on occasion (OK, only twice, but they were great occasions) replied to unsolicited advice with "What makes you think that's an appropriate thing to say to a stranger?" It gives you a total high, because there's really nothing they can say without admitting to be a buttinski. And once I told an old lady it was completely inappropriate to talk to my child since she was a stranger. Twisted it around right on her.

Greg, I am now imagining you race-walking with the Bug. What was the exact complaint? That you could bump into someone else? Or was the person afraid that a toddler's body would explode if it went faster than 4 mph?

New Yorkers are just freaking nuts. One time someone stopped me to tell me my 3-year-old was picking his own nose. I think it's because too many people in this city are freelancers, so they don't have any coworkers to turn it on.

[freelancers, haha. The kid was walking, holding onto one finger. And she'd occasionally burst into a little trot, then spot a variation in the manhole and gas line covers along the way, and suddenly stop to examine it. (She's apparently doing her thesis on them.) The actual comment this time was "Tell your daddy to slow down because his legs are much longer than yours, aren't they?" The other time, which was several months and many walked miles ago, it was a plain old, "Your daddy doesn't know you can't keep up." -ed.]

Wouldn't the person giving the advice necessarily have to be walking too fast for their own comfort as well? Did they run up to you at an intersection to tell you this? Or maybe they read their Bugaboo instructions and know it's not supposed to be used as a jogging stroller!

[not at all. the whole point is, NO ONE was walking too fast for anything. The lady's point was that I was walking too fast for the kid's pace. -ed.]

If they're holding your finger, how can you go too fast? When two small hands are holding your finger and the knees are on the ground, then you're moving too fast. Except indoors on a flat surface, then it's fun. :)

Boy I'm glad I read the comments before commenting myself. I thought you were driving a car and someone complained about you driving too fast. However, walking is another subject. If the kid wants to walk fast then you just have to do it.

Our son periodically demands a run. So we run. If we don't he pitches a fit.

My favorite, all time best unsolicited advice was from a sample lady at a local grocery store. Lucas was strapped to me in his Kelty front carrier thingy and was out cold. It was winter and he was wrapped in a blanket. It was the first time all day that he was really really out.

And the sample lady yelled (I kid you not) from maybe 40 - 50 feet away "are you sure he can breath. Is he alive?"

I went over and asked her "If I wake him up, and he starts screaming again, can I leave him with you to calm down?"

It was lovely.

you know what makes the yentas particularly nuts? the lolling head of the stroller-napping child. people shriek "her HEAD! her HEAD!" like someone in a David Cronenberg movie. once an old man actually grabbed me by the arm and barked, "lady, i have 29 grandchildren. i beg of you, straighten that child's head!" i wasn't self-possessed enough to do anything except wrench my arm away and keep walking, but i so wish i'd had a latte-like retort ready. some of my friends had good suggestions after the fact: brady suggested saying haughtily, "excuse me, we've started her on an advanced post-natal yoga program. she's doing it right now." kathleen recommended replying, "oh, do you think this one's broken? maybe I should abduct a different one!" mikki suggested breaking into a sob: "her daddy ain't got no spine!" and my father offered, "oh, don't worry, she's dead."

[lol, next time, I'm going with "her daddy ain't got no spine!" although honestly, it'd take a lot to top grandpa's t-shirt-worthy comment. -ed.]

My mother in law does this same thing - she says stuff to the kids that she doesn't want to come right out and say to us. Like "When are you going to come spend the night at Grandma's?" (umm, how about never?) and "how come you hardly ever visit us?" or "mommy needs to take you to get a haircut!"

It's like she thinks if she says it in a goo goo ga ga voice we won't realize she is being passive aggressive. Very clever, grandma.

Ok, so what's worse - unsolicited, obnoxious and clueless advice from total strangers or unsolicited, obnoxious and clueless advice from relatives?

Grandma and Great-Grandma both harp on us constantly to put a hat on our infant daughter's head if we're taking her outside. This in spite of the fact that our little girl screams bloody murder anytime you put a hat on her. She hates them and has since the day she was born. Practically her first articulate movement was to yank a hat off of her head that had been crammed on there by G-ma.

The kid is simply warm-blooded. She doesn't like her hands covered either, even to the point where she insists on sleeping with her hands over the blanket and will not tolerate mittens under any circumstances. Besides, we live in California. It's not as if it gets particularly cold here.

Probably my least favorite incident was the time that Great-G-ma berated us for not putting a hat on the little tike because she said, and I quote, "if you don't put a hat on her outside she'll get colic and then you'll be sorry." This was followed by annecdotes about how her three children all got colic because she took them out in the cold without hats on. Yeah, that's it. The colic was caused by going outside hatless. You've solved the biggest mystery in baby care - if people put hats on their kids colic will be a dim memory.

Grrrrrr.

See, and my mother-in-law told me the cure for colic was to take the baby to a chiropractor.

Maybe MIL and the above posters G-ma should arm wrestle for who's correct on the proper cure for colic...

we live across from the Hell's Angels clubhouse in nyc's east village. once i took josie out on a pleasant spring day and this huge, tattooed, leather-vest-wearing, beer-bellied, stringy-haired biker yelled at me, "HE NEEDS A HAT!"

everybody's a critic.

During my son's first 3 or 4 months (before I discovered his problem with dairy (my eating it, to be specific)) he would have random outbursts of crying. There was nothing to do but wait a few mins and he would calm right back down. When we were out at the mall (always at the mall!) I would constantly have people come up to me and say "He's HUNGRY!" Really? He is? Wow! Thanks for reading my child's mind and informing me of his needs.

my daughter ehhrrrrsss. When she's eating, concentrating, etc. she softly makes this noise. Apparently my husband did as a child too. 2 grandmas accosted me in a store to tell me my child was making that noise because she was "bored and unhappy". I invited them to find out what kind of noise mommy made when presumptuous strangers invaded my personal space and questioned my parenting abilities.

marjorie, yes, but most critics can't blow up your car to make their point.

I was inspired one day when I was out walking with my daughter (then, about 4 months old) and she was wailing her head off because she hadn't napped and was cranky. One woman took it upon herself to tell me that she was hungry and that I should feed her. I looked at her with absolute horror, took a step back, slapped my forehead and cried, "You're supposed to FEED THEM?! That's what I've been doing wrong this whole time!" Effective, sarcastic and just plain fun.

"Little girl, tell your daddy to take his foot off my erk, windpipe."

Have you tried taking a child for a ride on a bike in NYC - that is on the kind of seat that sits on the front of the bike? In Holland, where we're from, everybody uses those to transport children, one on the front, one on the backseat and some grocery shopping hanging from the steering-thing. In NYC, even though Casper would be wearing a helmet, we've had people screaming at us that this was totally irresponsible, describing us what the blood would look like on his face if we'd keep riding the bike and meet with a car, etc. Fortunately we also heard some (whispered) 'That's so cool, where did they get that seat?'s...
And don't get me started about missing hats, shoes or socks or what happens when your child is holding on to a little plastic sandwichbag (that he impossible could get his head into - but still, you NEED to warn people who apparently don't recognize the risks of plastic bags....)

[I don't know that I've ever felt so ALIVE and so aware of my surroundings as I did the first time I rode a bike in Manhattan. You have to admit, G, that where you're from, people/drivers have at least some respect/awareness of cyclists, plus there are all those bike lanes. NYC, not so much. -ed.]

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