I am always trying to read between the lines and uncover some hidden message and, well, I guess I have a tendency to overanalyze. It's hard for me to take a compliment at face value, which is something I'm constantly working on. Then, sadly, I hear things people say about my kid that are shaming me, and all of that work seems to go out the proverbial window. Maybe the intention was pure, and flattery got buried in the delivery. I honestly try to give the benefit of the doubt. Still, there are definitely times when I know I'm not overreacting, and I feel the sting of certain remarks I can’t help but interpret as judgmental.
There’s a solution to this, or at least (arguably) an easy solution, and I know it’s on me. I have to just not feel hurt by other people commenting on my parenting style. It is taking practice, but the more I tell myself that I am the expert when it comes to raising my own children, the easier it gets to let whatever commentary I hear roll off my back. I have to remind myself that it’s easy for other people to tell me what to do, because they’re not the ones having to live with the outcome of these choices every single day and for the next 18 years.
We’re not going to rid the world of self-proclaimed "parenting experts" who feel free to toss out observations about our kids, not realizing or caring that we moms are already doubting ourselves enough. Instead, we have to accept that those people are out there and tune them out. When you’re hearing any of these things people say about my kid that are actually subtly shaming me (though I’m working on not letting any of it get to me), know that you're definitely not the only mom to hear it, and that regardless of what anyone says (subtly or otherwise) you're doing a great job.
"He’s Smart, In His Own Way"
This backhanded compliment is the worst. The teacher who expressed this to me was not trying to shame me but, clearly, she wanted me to know that my son’s brand of intelligence was outside what she considered to be the “norm.” In other words, he didn’t totally conform to kindergarten rubrics. No mom wants to hear that her kid is “other,” even in a world slowly changing to embrace all kinds of kids. “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” is something I learned when I was a kid. It would be awesome if adults starting following that rule.
"She Must Get That From Her Grandmother"
We are lucky to live close to my parents and they are a big part of my kids’ lives, helping us significantly as part of the patchwork of our childcare since my husband and I both work full-time. That means they are usually the ones shuttling my children to their activities. For the past five years, my mother, a former dancer, has taken my daughter to her beloved dance classes at the studio where I studied as a kid. My daughter’s passion and skill for dance is repeatedly attributed to my mother, and not me. It hurts a little, but I see how proud my mom is of her granddaughter and I swallow my pride. I just wish I got a little credit, too.
"She Hasn’t Had A Haircut In Two Years?"
My daughter has patience for absolutely nothing except waiting for her hair to grow down to her ankles. It’s been two years since I’ve taken her for a trim, though I have tried. Honestly, I don’t feel bad about it until someone remarks on it. Can we stop commenting on our kids’ bodies? It doesn’t make anyone feel good.
"It's Such An Interesting Choice, Letting Your Kid Watch Those Movies"
My husband and I love movies and certain ones have special places in our hearts, like the first two Rocky movies. When we introduced them to our kids, they were hooked, and wanted to see the rest of the sequels (even though they’re not as good as the original, duh). So, yeah, maybe they were a little over my son’s head, who was five when he watched them. The movies are inherently violent, so I can see why people would judge, but my kid loved cheering for Rocky, and he understood the basic concept of, “work hard and try to be your best self.” Not the worst lesson we can share with our mini-cinephiles, right?
"Does He Know His Shirt’s On Backwards?"
What I’m certain you mean is, “Do you know his shirt’s on backwards, and why didn’t you fix it?” My kid dresses himself and he’s comfortable and one day it will matter to him (or not). I have to pick my battles. Unless it’s picture day, I can’t care too much about the correct placement of my son’s shirt.
"She’s Not That Tall, Is She?"
I know I can’t take my kid’s height personally because it’s not anything I can control, but it does perturb me when people feel the need to comment on it. After all, she did get her short genes from me, so I can’t help but feel a little guilty that people get hung up on that.
"This One Doesn’t Have Much To Say, Huh?"
My kids have a lot to say and talk a mile a minute, but usually just in the comfort of our own home. They get shy around strangers sometimes, especially my younger one. He's not always comfortable answering an adult’s questions, and will sometimes clam up and retreat behind me. As an introvert, I totally empathize with him. As a mom, hearing someone comment on my son’s silence, usually ends with me getting flustered and feeling like the world thinks I have rude kids. My children are not rude, they just don’t trust strangers.
"She’s A Real Girly-Girl"
I see no shame in femininity, and I definitely believe it can co-exist with confidence and strength. So when someone tosses that comment out about my daughter around, who (outwardly) displays an affinity to stereotypically feminine outfits and hairstyles, I interpret it as more of a critique than a compliment. It’s not taking into account the fullness of my daughter’s personality. It’s slapping a label on her and undermining the effort I have made towards raising her to be a thoughtful, clever, enthusiastic person. When someone comments solely on my daughter’s feminine appearance, it makes me think that I haven’t worked hard enough to have all those other rich, wonderful traits about her show through the sparkles on her shirt.
"They’re Only Eating The Broccoli Tops?"
At every dinner, my kids get vegetables on their plates. But I don’t force them to eat every morsel. At ages eight and six, they are still working through some veggie aversion. The older one won’t eat anything green except edamame. The younger one refuses edamame and most anything else that has to be chewed thoroughly. Having them eat the tops of their broccoli is actually quite an accomplishment. Quit trying to make me feel bad about it.
"You Should Have Him Practice Writing More"
In kindergarten, my son didn’t have neat handwriting. You know, because he was five. He came a long way during that year, and I’m sure he’ll continue to improve as he gets older and with our continued support. till, many people were quick to point out how we could “fix” him. His teacher wanted him to write more, my mother wanted me to buy oversized pencils for him, someone else recommended overseeing his coloring time to get him to stay in the lines more to hone his fine motor schools.
But when he was evaluated by an occupational therapist, she dismissed the concern. “He is tracking fine. I wouldn’t worry about it until next year.” A lot can happen in a year, if we gently help a kid find his way. I was feeling, from everyone who was trying to “help,” that I wasn’t doing enough since my kid’s handwriting wasn’t as neat as others’ in his class. My gut told me not to push him, and I was right. It’s just so hard to listen to my own instinct when so many outside voices are chiming in to override me.