Advice to parents- Take it or leave it?
Advice- love it, hate it, you can rarely escape it. As I grew up in India, I grew accustomed to unsolicited advice, from everyone,everywhere about everything. From the auto driver who told me I should learn to speak fluently in Kannada, to random aunties at parties, who suggested I talk to other random aunties, about finding good Indian boys. The advice was like an annoying pop up ad on your favorite webpage. After a while, I came to expect it, accept it, and sometimes, quite unexpectedly dole out some of my own.
Once I got married to the nice Indian boy, went to the land of Obama and opportunity, I assumed, other than a trickle or so here and there, the steady stream of mostly useless advice would dry up. Boy, was I wrong! Because, after marriage, the next logical thing for me to do, was ofcourse, have a baby. And so, now we have two groups of advice. One is your garden variety, well-meaning type- ‘You know this is what we did with our kids, and it worked. You should try it too’. The other is the Don’t you know better mix- ‘You cannot name your son …he will be stopped by the TSA’, ‘You know organic food is the only option for the kids’, ‘You mean you still put your kids to bed?’, ‘Children must be seen, not heard’, ‘You cannot seriously be feeding them chicken nuggets for lunch?’.’ Why don’t you just bring the baby to the party!’
The funny, actually not so funny truth to it, is that some of these suggestions are delightfully doled out by people who do not have children. Some of them have pets, and so assume, it is the very same thing. Maybe to them it is, no offence, but to me there is a difference between bringing up children, and caring for pets. Though, with the number of kids on their backpack pet-strings( sorry, the Politically Correct term is ‘harnesses’), I don’t think we are far from the day when parents will take their dogs and kids for walks, albeit on different leashes. And so, to well-intentioned people who do not have kids, but feel the need to tell us how to raise ours…You’re like virgins quoting the Kama Sutra. It sounds good, but you have no clue what you’re talking about. And don’t get me started on the people who think they can correct your children, right in front of you, or criticize your parenting style in their presence.But I digress.
So yes, we did name our son Ishaan, and no he has not been stopped by the TSA. Yes, we still sing and read to our boys till they fall asleep. Yes, they have chicken nuggets now and then, and on a rare occasion they have fries( the horror) with that. And we most definitely lost brownie points with friends for missing their parties, but a sleeping baby shall not be rudely rocked out of his slumber. It is in the good parenting handbook, we were handed by some well- meaning advice dispenser.
My husband I are not a couple of know-it -all snobs.We sought out advice when we were expecting the first time, and all of it came in handy. But once we were parents, it hit us. Nothing, and no one can really prepare you for parenthood. It is a journey you have to take on your own. You can use a GPS now and then, but the joy is in finding your own detours and mapping your own path. No one can understand your children, better than you can. And your way is different, NOT better or worse than someone else’s methods. So, to me, parenting is a constant battle between finding your feet and then having the rug pulled from beneath them. The trick, as my husband constantly reminds me, is not to judge yourself all the time. And that, to me, is the best piece of advice.