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Dear Parent Shamers: Please Back the @#$^ Off!

I assume you revel in any opportunity to "school" another parent because it makes you feel better about your own parenting skills, or perhaps lack there of.

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

Dear Parent Shamers,

Seems I can’t go anywhere these days without coming across you. On-line parenting groups. Target. The park. You’re easy to pick out. You’re the one giving unsolicited advice when another parent is venting or rolling your eyes and whispering when you see someone trying to deal with a difficult child in public ⏤ like me, for example.

You have an answer for everything, especially those situations that no one has asked for your input on. Doesn’t matter if it’s nutrition, academics, healthcare, behavior, or macrame. You’ve got all the answers. Funny part is, you may not even have kids ⏤ which makes your unsolicited commentary even worse. Seriously, just stop.

Here’s some wisdom for you: Every child is different. Just because you have parenting all figured out with your own kids (or, better still, with your terrier), that doesn’t mean it’s going to work with everybody else’s. Yes, there are some universal truths ⏤ feed them, water them, clean them, don’t let them run with scissors, and beware silence. We’ve got that, thanks. Everything else is up for debate, though. You do realize that, right?

I know why you revel in every opportunity to “school” other parents. Because it makes you feel better about your own parenting skills, or perhaps your own parenting inadequacies? You relish every opportunity to convince yourself that you really do have it all figured out. That your kids will go on to be the superstars you desperately need them to be to validate your fragile self-worth. Well, good for you. But guess what? So might ours.

I’ve known a lot of fantastic parents with vastly different approaches to raising kids. Some breastfed. Some bottle fed. Some homeschool. Some public school. Some are vegan. Some are carnivores. Some limit screen time. Some worship the almighty iPad for the brief-but-glorious distraction it provides. Some are rolling in the money. Some are living on love.

Not only that, but some face challenges with their kids you couldn’t possibly fathom, even if you did climb down off your high horse long enough to try to relate. Challenges like dealing with an autistic child at the park when the sensory overload just gets to be too much for the little guy. The kinds of challenges I deal with every day. Everyone’s situation is different, which means the lessons they learn are different. Accept that.

So next time you see a kid having a fit at the store, wearing the same play clothes they wore yesterday, or, God forbid, being permitted a Coke and a smile, do us all a solid: Give your fellow parents the benefit of the doubt. And if you absolutely must intercede or comment, how about something like this:

  • “Huh. That’s one way to do it. Not my idea, but to each their own.”
  • “Sometimes my kid can be a real ass-hat, too. Can I show my solidarity by purchasing you the liquor of your choice?”
  • “He really screwed that one up. Been there, done that. He’ll bounce back.”

Or, even better, the most helpful response one parent can offer another: “You’re looking a little overwhelmed. Been there myself. Is there anything I can do to help?” Doesn’t matter if they take you up on the offer or not. You paid them the respect due to another parent and just like that, have become the lifeline they so desperately need.

That’s the bare minimum, and if you can’t find it in you do any of those, just stay silent and get on with your own life. That actually is an appropriate response. Because if you choose instead to open your mouth, to drive outside your lane again, no amount of straight “A” report cards, meticulously organized PTA bake sales, Little League trophies, or “Parent of the Year” awards can excuse that. You’re a parent shamer, and you’re the worst.

All the Best,
Jeremy

An overgrown man-child and connoisseur of geek culture, Jeremy Wilson is striving to raise his two sons to become more responsible, self-actualized men than himself. So far they are not cooperating. You can follow his hijinx at fatherhoodinthetrenches.com