After I got married, I got pregnant within a couple months (winning my friend Rebecca a bet). I was considered a young first-time mom and, to add to that, people always seem to think I'm younger than I am. And to add even more to that, my husband was deployed, so often it was just my son and me. Apparently to the many people on the outside with no brain-to-mouth filter, I was told I looked like his babysitter!
Who SAYS that?! Lots of people, but mostly the older grandmother types that maybe were trying to be sweet, but really ended up hurting my feelings. And often questioned my parenting.
Here's one example: On an already stressful trip up to gorgeous, historical Savannah, my mom and I wandered around a thankfully air-conditioned tourist store, and 2-month-old Rowan started to cry -- common then since he had GERD and wasn't yet medicated, and I was still very unsure and modest and tried to find an employee so I could nurse him in a changing room.
Enter Random Grandma (RG). Approaching someone and saying, "Aww, sweet baby" is okay. But RG continued, "What does he need? Did Mama pinch you?" (WHY do people say that?) I chuckled politely and tried to move on. She followed. She continued to comment, asking about my son. She TOUCHED him and I rather abruptly steered the stroller away from her, my mom following alongside me. I picked Rowan up and walked while patting his back, turned a corner, and RG appears out of nowhere and starts RUBBING Rowan's back and asks me, "Mom, didn't you bring a bottle? Where's his bottle?" I muttered something about not needing them and thankfully found an employee so I could feed him in the restroom.
I wish that were the only incident like that.
Another time, in the middle of August, in weather that made fire ants seem like room temperature, I went to K-Mart (*shudder*) with Rowan in solely a white onesie, and even in that he sweat profusely. After shopping, I headed out to my car and heard:
I don't know about you, but I don't generally respond to that. But again, louder and closer:
I turned around to see an older man literally RUNNING across the parking lot towards me. I figured I must have dropped my wallet or keys or something, but no. When he got up to me, he said just as emphatically and "politely" as he'd shouted at me, "Don't you dress your baby?" Aghast, I muttered something about it being hot and continued on my way. Believe it or not, I don't handle confrontation in person that well.
A friend in Texas recently had a woman stop her as she shopped with her baby in a sling to inform her that she could get an inexpensive stroller off Craigslist so she didn't have to "haul her baby around." Um. Yeah.
Here in Washington I haven't been Invasive-Stranger Free either ... a "lovely" older woman blocked my cart in Target to say, "Do your kids have the same father? They don't look anything alike!" (They SO do.)
What? Frankly, despite the cat fights on the Internet, the people who often are rudest and pushiest to new and young moms in public in my experience are often the older folks. What gives?
Why is it that elderly strangers feel free to rudely narrate or dictate your parenting choices in public?
Image via kevindooley/Flickr