Saturday, November 9, 2013

Can't You *Just* Stop the Parenting Advice?

I know I’m in for trouble when I hear the words “Can’t you *just*…” spilling out of someone’s mouth. A piece of unsolicited parenting advice is sure to follow.

Often, the priceless nugget of wisdom that is about to be shared is offered by a single person or childless couple. Often, they are clueless about the intricacies of raising a child, and/or like to hear themselves speak.

"Can’t you *just* bring your daughter to the party at 9PM?"

“Can’t you *just* put her in the highchair at the five-star restaurant?”

baby lying on stomach

The *just* part is what gets me. *Just* is filled with some serious negative subtext. Just implies that a) there is a simple solution to your parenting problem and that you are either b) too stupid or pigheaded to figure it out on your own or c) you enjoy making parenthood more complicated than it needs to be or d) you are taking parenting way too seriously for their tastes.

I’ve come to expect “Can’t you *just*…” from the single or childless group, though. I even have some sympathy for their position. After all, I was single and childless and clueless and judgy too. I bear little resemblance to my pre-baby self; how could I possibly expect them to understand post-baby me?

But there are other groups of people who engage in the “Can’t you *just*…” shtick that still catch me off guard. Older folk who act like they have selective amnesia about raising children.

“Can’t she *just* skip the nap?”

"Can’t she *just* sleep in this twin bed as high as Mount Everest without railings?”

I have some sympathy for the older folk group too. It's kind of sweet that they only remember their children's youth with rose-colored glasses. I hope to be blissfully forgetful myself someday.

The final group that is prone to this lovely, little three-word conversation-starter still leaves me speechless. It’s the holier-than-thou parents, who just happen to not have the same problem as you. I want to say to them, “Et, tu, Brute? I thought we were supposed to be in this together!"

There is one consolation about the holier-than-thou parents group, though. I know that it won’t be long before they have their own “Can’t you *just*…” problem/s too. Karma is a bitch...or I am one. Bitchiness aside, I can always hold out hope that, along with their suffering, will come sympathy for the plights of their comrades in parenting.

For my part, if and when the holier-than-thou parents come to me with their problem/s, I will never, ever say "Can't you *just*..." I will listen to them and validate them and offer my support. I will ask, "Is there anything that I can do for you?"

I will do these things, because they are what I would like people to do for me when I'm facing the inevitable parenting impasse...instead of hearing, "Can't you *just*..."

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Photo Source: Executive Yash, Deviant Art.  This photo has been adapted and does not suggest that the licenser endorses its use or this blog. License

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  1. I used to love getting asked if I could get my kids to just skip their naps and wish I had a dime for every time I heard that one. Seriously though what goes around comes around and one of these people who said this to me just recently now has a little boy and they wouldn't dare let him skip a nap. So now they too get it, but god how I wish to say something, but then again am not petty enough to, but definitely interesting to see it now from the other end.

  2. what an excellent, insightful post. Those are exactly the three words that irritate me most, and you have beautifully worded what the insulting implicit meaning behind them is.

  3. Oh my god! Perfect! Who hasn't heard the "can't she/he just skip a nap?" and the "just put him in a twin bed!" from in-laws, grandparents, childless couples? And LOL, about a 9pm dinner with a baby-- my heart pounds at the thought!

  4. I'm raising an autistic son, so my parenting choices are based on his needs. You better believe I have often heard the "can't you just . ." No, I can't. Actually, it's not that I can't, it's that I won't.

  5. I would get this because I was so picky about not missing naptimes and bedtimes, because I knew how long I would be dealing with the fallout from bad sleep!!

  6. I have heard "Can't he just skip his nap?" from my own brother and his wife who have two kids!! What's up with that? Oh right. They just let their kids skip a nap and think that screaming is fine. No thanks. Although my son is now skipping his naps on his own. Sigh. Great post, Rachel!!

  7. Can't they just- this could be an endless list!! Love it.

  8. I hate those words as if I didn't know, hadn't tried, or was too stupid to parent or problem solve. Unfortunately, family seems to be the worse at this :(

  9. It's such a dismissive phrase of such a big responsibility. Like you, I can forgive the childless and old people, but coming from other parents - it's just unnerving. I can't believe that people expect your child to sit in a five-star restaurant or go to a party after 9!

  10. Oh my gosh, YES!! I get that even from my mother who having raised children of her own should know that we cannot JUST do xyz. do I secretly send this post to her :)

  11. LOL. "Karma is a bitch... or I am one." hahahahahahaaaaaa

    And yes... just yes, on the content. The other day a member of the first group you discussed said "can't you just put henry and hudson in the car" (to drop the dog off for the weekend... at 8:30 pm). Why yes, that's a great idea. Why don't I wake my child up from his slumber, drag him out in the cold, have him fall asleep on the ride over and back, wake him up again and then try to get him to fall back to sleep at 9:30. What a great idea! I can't believe I didn't think of that! ;-) But I didn't get mad, because, like you said, they just don't know. The second and third groups though.... I am a bitch, too, my dear. :)

  12. Luckily my sister and her boyfriend picked up on how annoying their "advice" was. Now they give me the Can't you justs but they're in jest. It's semi funny and I still hope they have kids so I can rub their faces in it.

  13. Yes! You are so right- the judgment is in the "just." Great post, Rachel! Those pieces of advice all made me squirm- I have heard several of them in my own life. Shudder.

  14. YES. Everyone's experience is different, in parenting and otherwise, and can't we just all support each other instead of passing judgement? It would make life so much more pleasant. Great post.

  15. Preach it! This is so absolutely true and makes me want to say mean, mean things. After all these of parenting, I have actually perfected a look that let's people around me know in no uncertain terms should they offer their advice unless I ask for it or I shall release the Kraken! Great post, as always Rachel!

  16. Since my girls are teenagers now, I had forgotten about all this. I guess people mean well, but as you point out often they just don't understand or can't imagine what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. I think, with other parents, there's also often guilt or defensiveness of whatever practice they do (or did) and so they want us to do it too.Eg, if you are making sure your kid gets her nap, but they aren't they don't want to see that because it brings up feelings of guilt.
    My older daughter was very sensitive and quite anxious when she was little and so I'd often take time to reassure her and limit activities (dancing etc) to a level she could handle. The phrase that used to get to me was, "She just needs to learn… that people are nasty, that she can't have her mother when ever she wants… and so on."
    Well, I didn't ever really want her learning the first of those, and the second she eventually got to on her own!
    An interesting post.

  17. list goes endless .. some ppl just cant do that !

  18. i hear ya. I get this from my sister in law who despite not wanting kids has very strong opinions on strict discipline. Bless her she means well but just doesn't really get that little people don't always do what super nanny wants them to (they edit that crap out of the programme).

  19. prime examples you gave that show how the "can't you just" questions can be so ridiculous or so naive. I agree i probably asked those questions, out of pure innocent WONDERING before kids, but anyone who's had kids....really?! c'mon.


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