Now that I have a nice collection of spaghetti-in-hair pictures, I’m ready for my son to master his fork. Don’t get me wrong, my toddler is actually a pretty good eater (my partner and I got lucky, we know this). I only bring this all up so you know where I’m coming from when I say that, despite the fact that food and feeding has gone well for our toddler since we introduced him to solids over a year ago, I can still be sensitive to comments about what our toddler eats. I mean, sometimes we’re able to provide him with the best, most nutritious, organic, healthy green stuff that money can by. And sometimes...he will only eat maple syrup. Even the best eaters have their limits. It’s fine, I get it. It keeps me and his dad humble.
Still, I bring this all up because what goes in a toddler’s mouth on any particular day can be the result of any number of complicated factors, like income, health, allergies, preference, cooking ability, convenience, and, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s really just about the crazy moods of someone who is unable to pronounce his or her own name. For all these reasons, I suggest that we tread lightly when it comes to commenting on what another mom is feeding her kids. Here are some sample phrases to avoid:
“That Looks [Any Synonym For Unappetizing].”
How do you know she didn’t spend hours preparing it in one of those tiny food processors specifically designed for baby food, Becky? HOW DO YOU KNOW?
Exception: You know something about the food that the mom-in-question doesn’t, like a bird swooped in pooed on it when she wasn’t looking.
“My Child Only Eats Organic Vegetables And Chia Seeds.”
Oh hey, that’s great for you! But not all of us are raising a future nutritionist. And actually, any other mom could have very well fed her kiddo exactly that for breakfast. In fact, if she did, I’d like to ask for her advice because getting some vegetables out of the way at breakfast time would be amazing.
Exception: You’re sharing the food you have in your kitchen, and you’re saying this as a way to apologize about not having cheese sticks available.
“I’m Impressed That You Don’t Care About [Additives, Preservatives, Red Dye 40, Etc.]."
I have to bite my tongue here, but you can only imagine how many “I’m impressed that you don’t care about general rules of politeness” comments are scrolling through my mind.
Exception: When you conclude the statement with “...the opinions of people who don’t really matter.”
“Wow, You Let Your Kid Have That Much Sugar?”
Is “let” really the right word? If my kid is getting sugared up, chances are, I'm trying to prevent worse problems from starting. So, really, maybe you should be thanking me for doing what I need to do in order to avoid a meltdown in your presence.
Exception: You are a pediatrician. In which case, fair.
“Aren’t You Afraid Of Choking Hazards?”
I mean, how do you say "no" to this one? Of course I’m afraid of choking hazards. But I’m also afraid of what will happen if my son goes hungry, so it’s kind of a wash at this point. Watch him like a hawk, hope for the best. Shrug.
Exception: You genuinely need some help learning the Heimlich maneuver and think the mom you're talking to might be qualified to teach you.
“Can I Have Some?”
I guess, if Goldfish crackers are your thing, this isn’t the worst thing you could say.
Exception: You’re ~literally~ starving and the child of the person you're talking to is not, and she has extras. Or you’re at a party or in some kind of situation where it’s been prearranged that you’ll be sharing food.
This one’s just not nice, you guys.
Exception: It’s Halloween, and you know she’s purposefully decorated her cupcakes with frosting spiders.
~Anything Pertaining To The Plethora Of Choices Surrounding Breast Vs. Bottle.~
Are we ready to put the breast vs. bottle argument to bed (on its back, of course)? I don’t know any mom who hasn’t wrestled with this one enough already.
Exception: You’re praising her efforts to be the best mom she can possibly be.
Please stop, collaborate, and listen: Most of the times that I’ve heard “You should...” in context of parenting, someone is implying they know what’s best, or better, for my child. This is never welcome.
Exception: You finish the statement by “...keep doing exactly what you’re doing, because you’re awesome."