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To All the Strangers Criticizing My Parenting

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Photograph by Twenty20

Dear complete strangers who are sure I'm doing everything wrong:

I'm sure you've never had children.

But you've probably seen them on television, so you're basically an expert now. Much like, thanks to "Grey's Anatomy," I'm now qualified to diagnose everything from prostate cancer to Addison's disease. Whatever your qualifications, I'm just SO glad you took time out of your busy life to make sure I knew what an incompetent parent I am.

I mean, taking kids out in public is A LOT of work and the challenge increases with the more kids I have, so I'm just really appreciative of meddlesome strangers for making the whole experience that much more delightful.

For instance, old guy at the parade last week: THANK YOU for coming up to me to inform me that I was being an irresponsible mom for allowing my children to be out in the hot weather. You might not have noticed that during our conversation, I was slathering them with sunscreen.

I felt extra special because I was in a sea of other moms and families but you chose to cross the street to address this issue with just me. It was basically like winning the lottery.

And old guy no. 2: Thank you for your concern for my family. As I was grocery shopping—the most common place for parental judgment, I've discovered—I had one of my kids walking next to me, another standing in the big part of the shopping cart holding on and the other child in the cart seat.

As I was picking out apples, I saw you in my peripheral making a beeline toward me. I was prepped for the inevitable "Boy, you sure do have your hands full" comment or something of that nature. It's not my favorite, but I can deal. Unfortunately, you had something else in mind.

You jumped all over me, telling me just how unsafe my child standing in the cart was and how sorry I was going to be for letting her stand there. I tried to politely tell you that I appreciated your concern, but that I was watching closely and had it under control.

Taking kids out in public is A LOT of work ... so I'm just really appreciative of meddlesome strangers for making the whole experience that much more delightful.

Your response? Loudly yelling, "Every mother's famous last words!"

Thanks for that, sir.

And let's not leave out the ladies.

Dear woman at the gas pump: I was pumping gas and my children were listening to a book on CD in the car while I was quickly wrapping up a conversation with my sister on the phone. You did not like this one bit.

You stepped over onto my side of the pump and demanded I get off of my phone while pumping gas.

You harped on and on, finally screaming that I was being a horrible example for my children because I was pumping gas and talking on the phone simultaneously. When I didn't immediately hang up on my sister, you marched over to the gas attendant to tell on me. I'm sure the bored teenager on duty was appropriately horrified by my delinquent behavior.

Which brings me to every other nosy person on the planet.

If you are a bystander watching a mom attempting to keep her family alive and you think your criticism or parenting expertise is going to help, let me give you the kind of unsolicited advice you seem to love handing out like candy: The only comments I need from you are ones that are loving and encouraging.

Feel free to tell me that my child is the cutest thing you've ever seen. I will happily listen to you tell me about how you have a grandchild the same age as my child.

But criticism shouted at the top of your lungs? Please go find another parent to annoy.

Sincerely,

Me (and every other parent on the planet)

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