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As a Manner of Fact
The Best Mother's Day Gift of All is Keeping your Nose Out of their Business
May, 2006 - Issue #19
Is there a touchier subject than child rearing? It seems that from the moment a woman starts showing a pre-baby bump, vultures and self-described do-gooders come out of the woodwork to tell parents how they have it all wrong.

At my most recent estrogen-charged informal meeting of gal pals, one member shared that she was chastised by a male passerby for breastfeeding in a mall. Supposedly the activity was "obscene," especially because it was done within eyesight of young children. Imagine that - a kid being exposed to one of the most natural, nutritious, caring forms of feeding in the history of humankind. Yes, we could see why he was frustrated by her lack of decorum.

"What I'm not condoning are the comments made by strangers or even loose acquaintances who probably aren't familiar with particular family dynamics. I mean really - that poor bottle-toting dad could have lost his wife in childbirth, for all that woman knew."
Sadly, mothers aren't the only ones accosted for the feeding habits of their infants. One dad was caught mixing formula at a fast food joint. Instead of lauding pops for enjoying some quality time with the baby, an older woman stopped by to tell him that his little one was adorable - and that if he really loved his baby, breastfeeding was the way to go.

Thank goodness this daddy has a sharp-witted tongue. He quickly reminded his unwanted companion that tragically, he was born without the ability to breastfeed, and then started in on how his wife also was unable to perform the service because of a botched breast implant surgery. I only wish I could have been there to see the old biddy's face.

But it doesn't stop at infancy. Another mom was held up in a supermarket after her threat of a spanking was overheard by another shopper. Now, keep in mind - the supposedly child-abuse-hotline-worthy comment was not, "Make another peep and I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life," but something along the lines of, "Bite your brother again and Mommy's going to give you a spanking." The shopper in question ever-so-kindly mentioned that hitting one's child only perpetuated the cycle of violence. She then apologized for the intrusion and sauntered away. I suppose that while she was out of line for sticking her nose where it didn't belong, we should give her some credit for recognizing her intrusion through a too-late "I'm sorry."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not promoting spanking, bottle over breast, processed versus organic, midnight bedtimes or any other parenting decisions that parents make or don't make to get kids to the age of 18 so that they can move away and only call on your birthday and Christmas.

What I'm saying is that while some childrearing tactics should be considered non-negotiable common sense (literally rotting their teeth out with sugar, for example), others are up for debate (like giving your kid an ice cream or Snickers bar now and then). I'm also saying that occasional debates are good when phrased in a non-intimidating-suggestion sort of way, especially if you are a close friend or family member of the parent, or have a relationship with the child (a teacher, for example). And of course, if you are asked for your advice, go ahead and give it.

What I'm not condoning are the random, and usually offensive, comments made by strangers or even loose acquaintances who probably aren't familiar with the particular family dynamics of the folks in question. I mean really - that poor bottle-toting dad could have lost his wife in childbirth, for all that woman knew. And even if you're grandma/grandpa/Godparent, etc. - if you've been told to stay out of it, zip that lip or you'll deserve a spanking.

Parenting isn't easy and it'll never be a job that's done right in the end without making a few errors along the way. A suggestion or two never hurt anyone, but if you're noticing that you sound more like a Dr. Spock book than a friend/parent, etc. hold off on the commentary and offer babysitting instead. That's one way to guarantee that little Georgie doesn't eat too many sweets - at least on Grandma's shift.

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Judith was spoiled rotten as a child, which explains why she still believes that it's her way or the highway. Feel free to feed into her ego or dash it against the rocks of despair by e-mailing her at jprimrose@insidescv.com.
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