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10 Things Parents Don’t Love to Hear from Strangers

Ottawa, April 2014
Ottawa, April 2014

“Stranger danger!”: this pretty much sums up my interactions with people these days.

Canadians are nice people and they generally mean well. Yet, as a (still relatively new) parent, there are a few seemingly innocuous comments you’d rather not hear all the time.

“Enjoy them while they are small!”

Look, it’s a kid. Not a bonsai. He will grow up and that’s fine. Between us, some days, I can’t wait for him to be old enough to bring me breakfast in bed. I understand that some people love the baby stage because babies are cute, but it doesn’t last forever. Toddlers are fun too, you know.

“He certainly doesn’t look like he is starving!” or “You’re so small, your mommy needs to feed you more!”

I heard both versions with Mark. As a newborn, people guilt tripped me about how small he was (well, he was just out of my uterus, you know). A few months later came the countless comments about his “baby fat” or how “huge” (said very dramatically) he was. People who comment on a child’s size make the parents feel bad (and the kid too, if he is old enough to understand).

“To breastfeed, you can just go over there.”

Please, stop assuming every mother is breastfeeding. Some can’t, some don’t want to for many reasons and it’s just fine because there is a wonderful thing called formula that babies can drink. And I know that some mothers breastfeed toddlers—their choice, I’m neutral… whatever works for them!—but most stop after 6 months to a year. I always find it strange when people ask me if I’m breastfeeding Mark—we are talking about a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler who eats his own slice of cake at Starbucks!

“Can he… (insert whatever skill here)?”

Yes, he can walk. I know, right now he is sitting but trust me, he can walk. He just, you know, wants to sit for now. Yes, he talks a bit. No, he won’t speak on command. Yes, he knows what a dog is. But since there are no dogs around, he has no idea what you are talking about. It was nice quizzing… I mean, chatting with you.

“Daycare is so hard on kids!”

Some women work outside the home, some don’t—this is irrelevant anyway because everyone needs a break. Taking care of a child is a full-time job. At one point or another, sooner or later, someone else—the father, a relative, a babysitter, a teacher, a daycare worker—will step into the picture. And this is probably for the best. Kids need their mother but they also need to interact with other people. Not every family has relatives around, not every family can live on one salary. Most parents feel a pang of guilt when they “leave” their kid for the first time. No need to guilt trip them on top of that.

“So, he is going to have a little brother or a little sister soon?”

Four words (and maybe the four-letter word too): mind your own business. Some family are happy with one child. Some families do want another one but sometime it’s not that simple, biologically or financially speaking—I know enough parents who want another child more than anything but it hasn’t happened yet. And if you are asking this question to the sleep-deprived mother of a newborn, you are going to hell. Seriously.

“It gets better when they are (insert age here)”

I know people who say that mean well. After Mark was born, I was told that “it gets better once they turn six months old”. Two thoughts crossed my mind: “How am I going to last six months?” and “Can we, like, fast forward the process?” Beside, all kids are different. A very easy baby can turn into a rambunctious toddler or vice-versa.

“He looks just like his daddy/his great-great-uncle/the postman!”

Most mother like to think their child look a bit like them. Come on. We went through fucking pregnancy and labour!

“Is he your only one?”

This is usually said by this annoying mother of four kids who are playing quietly while you are chasing your own little snowflake around the playground. Yes, thank you for reminding me I can’t seem to be able to deal with my one and only kid. No pressure, of course.

“You only have one?”

And this variant usually comes after people ask how long you’ve been married for. Yes, Feng and I have been married for nine years. Yes, we only have Mark. What did we do before? Uh, I don’t know… use contraception? I mean, completing university degrees, working, settling somewhere… you know, life. It happens. Some people don’t start a family as soon as they find the one.

Anyone got on your nerve lately with their comments?

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