Here is a hard truth about myself, based on 44 1/2 years of experience: I don’t like unsolicited advice. I ask for advice and/or opinions on a regular basis. But the reality is that I don’t generally like when someone just freely offers their opinions on how something should/could/would be done. I admit it. I like to be my own advocate.
Over the years, however, I’ve learned that I don’t always know the best way to do things. I don’t always have the most efficient method or even the most interesting method. I frequently find the hardest, most convoluted way to do something and charge right on in. And relationship advice? Forget about it. I have to experience the pain and anguish for myself before I’m willing to make changes. Pshaw.
Recently, I’ve been offered unsolicited advice in the mom department. Not from anyone who knows me personally. I think it’s safe to say that the people who really know me recognize that offering me advice when it hasn’t been asked for, is a pretty pointless endeavor. A shot-up eyebrow or a death stare glare generally gets my friends and family to move along.
Hence, I’ve only read like two parenting books. Okay, I only read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and bought another book about Toddler 411. I think I read a few pages and lost interest. I have read a few articles online about potty training and pacifier weaning, but that’s about the extent of it. Otherwise, I read fellow mom bloggers and see how they handled things.
But now, it feels different.
My first moment was at the wedding gown store. The girls and I met my sister at a bridal gown store to help her run the gauntlet. Now, I recognize that two active toddler girls are going to go nuts in a bridal store: beautiful poofy dresses, glittery shoes, jewelry and stuff for your hair. Plus, there’s the small round things on the floor where the brides step up to better see their dresses. Those are jumping spring boards and great places to lay around and stare at the ceiling. Oh, and it’s an enclosed space.
It’s essentially the perfect toddler storm.
In the beginning, the girls were awesome. They watched Auntgee try on dresses, they played with their coloring books and ate snacks. But after 2 hours indoors, let’s just say they were getting a little restless. And a bit loud. Yes, there were other women in the store, but there were also other kids in the store, and kids are like magnets: they attract each other and plenty of trouble.
As Auntgee is modeling a dress, I’m standing next to her talking about it. The kids are maybe 3 feet away from me, on the couch, being loud and laughing. An employee – who I didn’t know – walked by and said to the girls, “Let’s calm down, now. Use your inside voices. Just take it down.”
I could feel my sister and the salesgirl assisting her freeze. The kids took it well and quieted down. Other customers looked at me sheepishly. I, on the other hand, was livid, virtually burning inside. This stranger did not address me; in fact, she went out of her way to avoid eye contact with me. She walked in a circle to avoid coming near me. I wanted to come unglued. If you have a problem, talk TO ME. Do not address my kids.
I kept my cool, but I did something else: I started scolding my girls. When they seemed a little loud, I made them get quiet. When they clearly were in need of some running around time, I forced them to sit. I made choices, in hindsight, that came from the embarrassment of having a stranger chastise my children.
I gave in.
Then there was the next time.
The local grocery store is getting a remodel, so it’s in disarray. One recent Sunday we were in the produce section, and we really were the only people in our corner looking at fruit. So the girls got a little loud, as they reveled in the echo chamber their voices were filling. It was funny. But then other people started flowing into the same section. But our girls kept yelling.
An older woman – 50s? 60s? – with what I assume was her husband and a teenage son, rolled by us. Not trying to look at the food, but walking by. She said – when she was a few feet past us – in a voice loud enough for me to hear, “That’s so annoying.”
Now, at the time, I laughed. I’m sure it was annoying, but sometimes, kids are annoying. Thomas looked slightly befuddled. He commented that her family looked “beat down.” I just said she probably was annoyed and moved on.
But….I then told our girls to be quiet. For the rest of the grocery trip, I found myself telling them to calm down, be quiet, act right. All the things I hated hearing as a child, teenager, and even as an adult. What’s wrong with being exuberant and loud? What’s wrong with reveling in the silly, small joys that children have such skill in finding?
I have become a grump, and I don’t like it. I have allowed myself to worry about what others think when we’re in public. I have become vulnerable to the stares, comments, whispers of other adults, mothers or not. And I really, really hate it.
I want our girls to be free and light and loud. I don’t want to be like my father, uttering, “Keep your mouth closed,” all the time. I don’t want to be like an ex-boyfriend who once told me, “Straighten up and act right.” I want to be the mother that I want to be, and I want our girls to be the people that they need to be.
This mom doesn’t want your advice. And she won’t offer any unsolicited advice anymore. Pinkie swear.
How about you? Did you give or receive unsolicited advice? What did you think about it? How did you react to it? Share your thoughts in the comments with me. I could use some SOLICITED advice.