Parents are a pretty sensitive group.
Perhaps because they themselves are the Kings of the Judgers, parents are more attuned to perceived slights than most. No group of people is more “victimized” than parents — and the word “victimized” is in quotes for exactly the reason you think it is.
These days, there’s just not a lot you can get away with saying to or about moms and dads without someone getting offended. You have to use your words very carefully.
You’d probably have better luck suggesting that Hitler had some good ideas than saying just about anything about parenting to a parent.
Every day there is some new outcry from parents about how they’re being mistreated. By restaurants, by the child-free, by their fellow parents, by airlines (this is usually true), by their own children (that’s also true). Never mind that most of these perceived slights are primarily due to many parents’ own sense of self-importance.
Parenting, while noble and challenging, is not exactly new, or even slightly novel. Nor is it, in its most basic form – i.e., re-population and survival – all that hard. It’s inconvenient and stressful, definitely, but it’s not exactly difficult to keep children alive. We’ve made it this far, right? All the way from the days when cavemen were riding dinosaurs and climate change hadn’t even been invented yet. That’s a long time! Like, 400 years or something, right? (It’s been a while since I’ve been to church.)
But the latest generation of parents, of which I find myself a part, is both the most vocal and the most easily annoyed, than any that have come before. Today’s parents are sick and tired of being devalued and they’re not going to take it! So they whine about it. And they Facebook about it. And they blog about it. Constantly. Everything sets them off. So you have to be careful how you approach them, and what you say, lest you end up the focus of a rant. Trust me, I know.
You can’t compare them to pet owners (never mind that kids ARE like dogs!), you shouldn’t suggest they they’re doing something wrong. You can’t call a dad “Mr. Mom” or say that he’s “babysitting” his kids. You can’t imply that being a stay-at-home mom isn’t a job, or that formula is worse (or better) than breast milk. You can’t suggest that having two kids is somehow more worthwhile than having one, explain how “Crying It Out” might actually work, and don’t you even dare mention that you’re considering circumsizing – or NOT circumsizing – your son.
The fact is, there’s not much you can say to Today’s Parent that won’t incur some wrath, whether in the form of an argument, a condescending remark, a heavy sigh, or just an eye-roll. You’re probably better off avoiding them altogether. Unfortunately, when you are a parent yourself, that’s pretty much impossible, and we fellow parents certainly aren’t immune to saying the wrong thing to each other.
So I’ve made a little list explaining how to talk to parents, to help you avoid disaster. Veer from it at your own risk.
Things You Can Safely Say to Parents
- Good morning.
- What a beautiful child!
- You are a true hero.
- Let me get the door for you.
- You really know what you’re doing!
- Here is some free money.
- More wine?
That’s about it. Eight things. Because parents suck. And parenting sucks. Which isn’t to say it’s not worth it.
Kids are great. Well, my kids are great. Yours are annoying and unruly and you’re raising them wrong.
Sorry. I mean: “Yes.”