Parenting advice is tricky.
Unsolicited parenting advice, of course, is almost always unwanted, and if that advice is also useless? Don’t bother.
In some situations, advice is perfectly fine. If you have a little hack about how to dupe my kid into doing something he doesn’t want to do, or a suggestion for a product that might make a typical parenting chore easier, I’m all ears. Maybe I already know that shortcut, maybe I already have that gadget, but I don’t begrudge someone for offering a genuine and specific bit of help. (Even if it’s insane.)
But if all you’ve got to offer is some earnest platitude about needing to cherish every moment? Or about how I’ll never get a good night’s sleep again? Do everyone a favor and give it a rest. (Unless you’ve got a solution! Should I freeze my kids? Do you have a time machine? Didn’t think so.)
There are some aspects of parenting, including the aforementioned tenets of basic, non-monstrous childcare, that every parent knows even before they have kids. The parenting clichés that everyone is aware of, things like: the Terrible Twos, kids are picky eaters, children’s music sucks, bedtime is a nightmare, vaccines cause autism, and, last but not least, boy does it go by fast!
At a certain point, hearing about how tiring it is, or how hard the teen years are going to be, or it’s all so worth it stops being helpful and starts being annoying. I get that you just want to help, I get that you don’t want me to make the same mistakes you’ve made. But some parts of parenting simply have to be experienced first-hand, being told about them often feel less like help and more like piling-on.
Constantly being reminded of the most obvious parenting pitfalls starts to chafe after a while. Especially when you have no actual help to offer.
Feel free to take those off the conversational table (and if you really think vaccines cause autism, take yourself out of my vicinity), especially that one about how fast it goes. I hear that all the time and I hope to never hear it again. Everyone knows it goes too fast. I don’t need the constant reminders. My reminders live with me.
I remember when my challenging 6-year-old was an adorable toddler. I remember when I could still cradle him in one arm while striking the Heisman pose. I remember naively pining for him to take his first steps, speak his first word, get his first hit, read his first book. I remember wanting things to move faster only to reach the next phase and wish we could go back. I remember his first days of daycare, and preschool, and kindergarten.
Yes, it baffles me that this kid who once had the chubby rolls and floppy curls of a Cabbage Patch Doll is already heading into the second grade, but I knew this was coming, I knew it would fly. Again: Everyone knows it moves fast. But nothing anyone says can prepare you for the actual experience. So please, say nothing. Don’t threaten me with the future unless you plan to help stop it from coming.
Maybe that one doesn’t bother you. Maybe there’s another bit of oft-repeated banality that drives you up a wall. There is a ton of useless parenting advice that we all deal with all the time, especially online. Which isn’t to say there aren’t new tricks to learn – like that helpful “how to hold a car seat” video that was recently going around. That stuff is valuable! Lay it on me.
But if I can get your wisdom from the side of a coffee mug, it’s a safe bet I’ve heard it before. And instead of being helpful, it’s just irritating, and might even feel like you’re rubbing it in. No thanks.
Next time, instead of dancing like nobody’s watching, stop giving advice that nobody needs.