I failed to adequately realize just how difficult it would be to listen to other people comment on my kid, until I had one and people were constantly commenting on my kid. Whether I was doing something wrong or right, the endless and unsolicited statements about my son are overwhelming, if not somewhat slightly annoying and even judgmental and offensive. I also failed to realize that, sometimes, they're completely valid and necessary. There are times when you should pay attention to other people's comments about your kid; Times that unsolicited comments are made with the best of intentions; Times when someone is genuinely trying to help and draw your attention to a potential problem; Times when, honestly, you'll be thankful instead of annoyed.
If I'm being honest, I owe my ability to avoid a few potentially dangerous scenarios, because people were willing to comment on my child. Whether it was the kind woman who politely informed me that I was strapping my newborn into his carseat incorrectly, or the nice mom at the playground who alerted me to the ridiculously unsafe way my son was playing, I can't see everything and be everywhere and, well, I need help. I'm a new mom that didn't just waltz into motherhood like a seasoned pro, so having additional sets of eyeballs to watch my son and additional wells of knowledge I can draw from when necessary, is helpful. Does it sting sometimes? Yes. Does it feel like a small blast to my ego? Sure. Does it, sometimes, make me feel inadequate? You bet. But it also helps me care for my kid to the best of my ability and, for that, I am thankful.
Yes, take unsolicited advice with a grain of salt and, by all means, don't let someone judge you or shame you. However, when someone points out the following, take heed. It won't hurt, it will only help.
When It's About Their Safety...
I'll be the first to admit that, well, it's pretty difficult to take constructive criticism, especially when it's regarding your kid's safety. We all want to keep our children safe and when someone else points out a way in which we may not be accomplishing that goal, it can sting. I mean, it feels personal and it sounds like we're failing and the urge to become defensive is so very real. Still, if the criticism is, in fact, constructive and comes from a place of genuine concern and care and isn't judgmental or shaming, it should be something we all listen to. Having another set of eyes on our children to keep them safe never hurts.
...Like The Straps For Their Carseat...
The constant carseat safety posts on social media (and the public shaming that usually go along with them) can be annoying, to say the least. They're also somewhat necessary and very informative and come from a genuine place of concern. It can be so easy to misuse a carseat or strap your kid in the wrong way, so when someone notices and says something, it really is worth it to listen. Your ego might get hurt and your pride might take a beating, yes, but it will be worth it.
I'll never forget the time when a woman pointed out the straps I had just finished securing to my newborn son. She was passing by in the parking lot, and said that they were too low. I was somewhat taken aback and pretty embarrassed, but she was right and it was a learning moment that I am pretty damn thankful for.
...Or Product Recalls
I mean, honestly this is just helpful because how in the hell can anyone keep up with the latest product recall? It seems like every other day, at least, some type of baby food or carseat or crib or toy is being recalled because it's unsafe. So, if someone notices that the toy your kid is playing with was recently recalled, and they take the time to point it out, I say give that person a high five for even knowing that particular recall was a thing.
When They're Calling Out Bullying Behavior
There are signs of bullying you should look out for, but being completely aware of absolutely everything your kid is doing or saying is difficult if not physically impossible. So, if someone notices signs that your kid is being bullied or signs that your kid is doing the bullying, and they point them out to you, take note. This isn't a slight against your parenting (hopefully, and if it's done in earnest) and this isn't some finger-pointing situation, it just another set of eyes assisting you in monitoring your kid and their constantly evolving behavior.
When They See Your Kid Doing Something Dangerous
I understand that not everyone considers the same activities to be "dangerous." I've seen kids play on the playground in a way that makes me extremely nervous, while their mothers watch joyfully. I've let my kid play in certain ways that make other parents cringe. So, I can see how someone pointing out your kid's "dangerous" behavior can be annoying, if that behavior isn't something you think is dangerous. However, there are some actions we can all agree aren't safe (like running towards a busy street) and I, personally, would be very thankful to anyone who pointed them out when my kid is doing them.
When They Notice A Dramatic Change In Appetite...
A dramatic change in appetite can mean so many things; some serious and some, not so much. For example, it's pretty normal for your toddler's appetite to regress when they have teeth coming in, as it's physically painful for them to eat. However, when your kid's appetite takes a turn towards non-existent, this could mean that they're not handling a change in their every-day life, have some sort of physical problem and/or might be experiencing anxiety and depression. If someone notices, I say take head and be thankful, as tackling any of the aforementioned problems as quickly as possible will make support and/or treatment easier.
...Or A Dramatic Change In Overall Mood...
I mean, kids are just tiny human rollercoasters of unabashed emotion, so it can be difficult to pinpoint if a change in mood is indicitive of something serious. I've literally watched my kid go from laughing to crying to laughing again, in the span of 20 seconds, over the color of a plastic cup. However, if a teacher or another mother or a coach or someone who spends a significant amount of time with your kid, notices that their mood has changed and remained change, it could be a sign that something is going on that needs your attention. You can't always be there and you can't alway see what is going on so, again, another set of eyes is nothing if not helpful.
... Or Other Signs Of Distress
There are so many signs to look out for that can tell you that something serious is going on with your kid, that it can be difficult to notice them all. If someone sees a red flag and makes you aware of it, don't take it personally. They could literally be helping you support your kid to the best of your ability, and when you're a mother (hell, a parent) you're always in need of some help. This isn't a one-person job, you guys.
When They're Praising Your Kid...
Well, I mean, this one is just easy. Please, oh please, praise my little cherub all day every day, because when he's throwing a temper tantrum or throwing his toys at my face or throwing himself on the floor with such vigor that he hurts himself, it can be difficult to find something praise-worthy.
...And Pointing Out Something Great That You Might Not Be Noticing
Just like it can be difficult to notice that your kid is being bullied or that your kid is bullying others or that your kid is doing something dangerous, it can be difficult to always notice when your kid is doing something awesome. If a fellow parent or teacher or coach or friend or family member make you aware of a moment when your kid just #NailedIt, be excited and praise your kid and thank that person for making you aware of what might have otherwise gone unnoticed. You don't have eyes in the back of your head, you have other people to help. That's a good thing.