Am I the only one who’s noticed it? It seems like a near epidemic. Just like when you’re pregnant and the whole world feels like it’s OK to touch your stomach, when you’re out in public, strangers feel that it’s totally OK to comment on your parenting.
This summer, when I was at the beach, I took my 5-year-old to the potty. The woman standing in front of me, probably around my mother’s age, took one look at my son and my bare feet and said: “It’s so dirty in here. You shouldn’t walk inside barefoot.”
Um, hello?! We’re at the beach. Do our feet, clad in sand and ocean water, look clean to you? But more importantly, I didn’t ask for your opinion!
Here’s 5 ways to deal with strangers who comment on your parenting:
1. Make light of the situation
You can say just about anything to anyone if you’ve got a smile on your face.
You could laugh and make a joke. “Well, it’s not exactly like our feet are clean,” I could have responded with a warm smile. I’ve found that you can say just about anything to anyone if you’ve got a smile on your face. And humor can diffuse lots of uncomfortable situations.
2. Offer facts and figures
Or you could respond with the facts: “The average toddler’s car seat has more germs than a toilet bowl,” I could have told her. “Or the average restaurant menu, or even our own cell phones.” I mean, really, does this woman actually think that beach sand, that’s touched by countless feet and a wide variety of animals and birds, is clean?
3. Attack it head on
There’s something about outright honesty that’s nice.
I could have simply told the stranger: “I don’t need any advice, thank you.” After all, it’s the truth, isn’t it? But I don’t like to be confrontational in front of my children, and I certainly wouldn’t want to start an argument with a stranger in front of my son. Still, there’s something about outright honesty that’s nice. It’s just that in my experience, the sort of person who has the nerve to make a negative comment on your parenting to your face isn’t exactly the sort of person who likes to hear the truth.
4. Smile widely and ignore them
This is what I actually did. I was so shocked that a stranger had the nerve to be all judgey — and at the beach, of all places, my happy place — that I didn’t even respond. I smiled at her, acknowledged that I was being spoken to, but didn’t say a word. I continued the conversation I’d been having with my son and then we waited our turn to use the bathroom.
This is what I wish I had done. After all, how I parent my children is absolutely, positively none of her business. Her comment didn’t merit a response on my part. And it certainly didn’t merit a smile.
How do YOU handle comments on your parenting by strangers?