Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things People Say

1. "Oh, when your child does " whatever it is "your life will be over!"
2. "Enjoy these years, because they're gone too quickly!"
3. "Get your sleep while you can, because once they're born, you won't sleep!"
4. " >insert random parenting critique without feeling the need to listen to any judgments or rationalizations< "

Sigh.

I'm a big Douglas Adams fan. I think everybody should read him, particularly the first three "Hitchhiker's Guide" books. It's best for, like, 12-14 year old boys who have an imagination, but I've enjoyed it as an adult. British humor, you know. It can be an acquired taste, but I haven't many people who actively dislike the Adams stuff.

One bit from Hitchhiker's goes something like this: (no quotes, because it's a remembrance of something I haven't read in a few years) Ford eventually changed his theory to "[humans] keep talking because, if they close their mouths, their brains start working," but changed that because it was too cynical.

I think that people say those kind of obvious, patronizing (because all indicate a subtle tang of "I've done this, and better than you"), entirely meaningless platitudes because of the misguided feeling that they need to say something unique and memorable to the new parents / young parents / expecting parents. They feel like they need to be different from everybody else. Their advice is, after all, more meaningful than everybody else's advice.

Hey, folks, if you're one of these people, then stop it. Harsh words: nobody cares. Your unsolicited advice is not heeded or appreciated by anybody that hears it. We all know that having babies is difficult - or, if we don't know, then nothing you say is going to make it different. What do you expect: "We're going to lose sleep? Well, I better leave work and get my butt back in bed, so that I can magically carry hours of sleep over to the first few weeks of my child's life."

I just read a couple of awesome blog posts about similar topics, and "Fatherhood III" hit a chord with me. He posts about the incredibly low expectations heaped upon fathers who are primary caretakers of children. It's true; if I take the kids outside and they're dirty, or smelly, or naked, or whatever, then 1) kudos to me for being a "good dad" and taking them outside, and 2) points against The Wife as a mother because, if she were a fit mother, the kids wouldn't be in that situation.

Judgment is a tough business, folks. This kind of patronizing (matronizing, actually, if that's a word)and idiotic treatment of parenting only shows a remarkable ignorance of the way the world works. I can hear the thought process: "Wait - that child's caretaker has a penis. He can't care for a child! Penises prevent that!" Actually, they don't. Trust me. I have one, and I'm able to change diapers quickly and efficiently. I'm also better at diagnosing nap and bedtime than my wife is, and she doesn't have a penis. I checked.

The moral of this story: I don't need your parenting advice unless I ask for it. I don't need extra help from you because I'm a guy. I don't need to be congratulated on my parenting skills because I'm a guy. Like Chris Rock said, you don't get congratulations on things you're supposed to do.

Try these instead. It'll go over better and get a better response:
1) "Isn't it fun, having a baby this age who can ________?"
2) "I loved when my kids were ____ years old."
3) " >say nothing at all and restrain the desire to speak< "

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