Friday, August 27, 2010

Some Well Intentioned Advice -- Redux

The most popular post on my blog so far has been "Some Well Intentioned Advice," so I thought I'd share two other recent experiences that Stewart and I have had that fall under that description.  Since becoming a new parent I have heard horror stories about strangers butting in and yelling at new parents who are out and about for doing or not doing something with their infant. As a new parent, I am used to getting strong opinions from people we know, but I had not had that experience from strangers -- until a couple of weeks ago.

After eating lunch out with a friend on the Lower East Side, not too far from the apartment, I fed Max his own lunch out on Clinton Street. My plan was to take a short walk to Sugar Sweet Sunshine, a couple of blocks away, to get a cupcake and then to head back home to change Max’s diaper (a force of habit after he eats). On my way, Max started to get fussy and I could smell trouble – literally! I saw that he had a really big poop that needed to be changed immediately, as he had even crapped through his diaper! I was on Norfolk Street at the time, and fortunately there were virtually no people about. So I decided to change Max right in his stroller. As I was doing that, he started to flip out -- a rather rare but not unheard of experience! To prevent the squirming kid from getting poop everywhere, I picked him up and took him out of the stroller to finish putting him in a clean outfit. As I was doing this, all of the sudden I see a random lady run up to me and start touching Max, yelling that I was going to drop the baby!  I said very sternly to her: “thank you, I am not going to drop my kid.”  Her unwarranted hysteria was simply rude and unhelpful. She wandered off without another word, and I finished dressing Max and then went along my way. I could have said something slightly more choice to her at the time, but I knew it wasn’t worth it. I got Max fed, clean, re-dressed and happy, and that was proof enough that he’s got a pretty competent daddy, no matter what some stranger might have thought in her snap judgment.
Stewart also had a recent run-in with a nosy stranger. We were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant called “Mary Ann’s” with my cousin Amy and her partner Victoria. Stewart was seated with Max dozing in his arms, his face nuzzling Stewart’s shoulder (like the photo below). All of a sudden the hostess came up to Stewart from across the restaurant and said something that the rest of us couldn’t make out through the din of the restaurant. Stewart said something brusquely back and the hostess backed off.  We asked him what was up, and he told us that she had literally told him that the baby wasn’t breathing!  It was such an absurd comment on its face that Stewart hadn’t even flinched, and simply told the hostess that Max was fine, in a tone that made it clear to her to back off. Presumably, Max burying his face in Stewart’s shoulder had concerned her – but don't you think that the person raising the baby, and holding the baby an inch from his ear, is a little more clued into the situation than a hostess from across a crowded restaurant? She could have scared us half to death! Needless to say, we didn’t linger at Mary Ann’s for very long afterward and will not be returning!


What do you think?  Are we being over sensitive?  Have you ever given a complete stranger unsolicited advice about their child?  Is it better to say something and risk offending the parent by being a busy-body, or to stay silent even though you're legitimately concerned for the child's well-being? Tough questions to be sure, but no one said being a parent is easy!


  1. I don't recall ever giving advice to strangers on parenting, but I sure have received it.
    My favorite is when your baby is crying in a public place and some random person comes up and says in this super concerned tone:
    "Oh, he's tired!" Or "poor baby, he's so hungry!"
    As if you, the parents have no way of knowing this for yourselves, and someone should immediately call child services on you.
    Thanks strangers, but I think I know my kid better than you do.

  2. Hah, great post! Yes, I have been told that there is not enough fresh air in the stroller bassinet for my little guy and he may not be able to breath. But the best was when I was waiting on the street to cross with the stroller. The front wheel was slightly off the curb which then tempted a woman to come over to me and say that a car could come by at any moment and sweep the stroller away and my baby would be gone. The street was empty and no cars were in sight. I wonder what she would have done if I crossed on the red man and not waiting for the green! Germans ESPECIALLY love to point out when they think you are doing things incorrectly. It's something I just normally smile and nod to, then go about my business.

  3. I had a woman comment that clearly my milk wasn't "letting down" as I was trying to feed my 2 month old... on a plane. After a full day of cross-country travel. Because she was crying. Lady, there was a lot going on, but how you could possibly know whether I was or was not letting down is beyond me! (That's also the type of comment that I find the creepiest...)

  4. The only time I said something to another stranger was when she decided to beat her child in Wal-Mart..I was highly upset..she picked the child up by one arm(He was about 2) and wacked his behind so hard I thought his arm was going to fall off..I said..lady..isnt that a little harsh for a child that age...she told me to mind my own business and I said.>I will not when I see a child get hit like that..I said theres a police officer right over there that I could go get if you continue to strike your child like that..she said go ahead and I did..they questioned her and asked me a few questions as well..the police saw the bruises on this little boy and she was arrested right there..I felt so good that the child wouldnt be hurt anymore by this monster.

  5. i hear these stories from parent all of the time; it's really creepy. you could be collapsed on the sidewalk and potentially no one would stop to help you but they would have a bit of advice on child-rearing if you were just standing there minding your own business.
    i think the real question is are you "legitimately concerned for the child's well-being?" or are you just freakishly projecting some issue you have about raising your own child that compels you to accost a perfect stranger and advise them on child care. if the answer is "legitimately concerned," then by all means, dart across the crowded room and politely offer to perform infant CPR on the 'non-breathing' baby. otherwise back quietly away and put yourself in a time-out until you are sure you can keep it to yourself.

  6. MaryAnn'S? It's a lousy restaurant. No wonder the advice was lousy.