From the moment that it became apparent that I was pregnant with Mia, I noticed that complete strangers felt it their duty to give me advice.
I know that I am not alone in this observation.
The phenomenon of strangers giving advice is not isolated to just where I live—it is international.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Once you’re a parent the advice keeps on flowing.
But if your child has special needs, sometimes the well-meaning advice can get a bit overwhelming.
Everyone is an expert, and at times when you feel like less than an expert, any outside advice can really kick you while you are already down.
Sitting in the grocery store cafeteria for our afternoon snack between therapy appointments, I feel the eyes of the ‘grandma club’, as I call them, boring their beady eyes into my back, as I feed Mia her bowl of puree.
We’ve been coming here for two years now on a weekly basis, and the grandma club never fails to offer their sound advice to me at least once every two weeks.
I try not to make eye contact, hoping that if I act engrossed in feeding Mia and drinking my coffee, that they will not feel the need to offer their words of wisdom today.
But then, the leader of the pack is there, already pulling up a chair to our table.
The ladies used to ask to join us, now they figure I’m open game and pull up a seat without even asking for permission.
The advice of the day from the mother of four and grandmother of ten.
‘You know, I’ve been watching you for a long time.'
‘If you want my advice…you need to let her starve a bit, and then she’ll stop being lazy and pick up the spoon and eat on her own. Just like that.’
Now I have a couple of choices on how to deal with this situation:
A: I could feign gratitude for such wise advice, and promise to try it out this week, and hope that she then leaves.
B: I could be sarcastic. Wow! Thanks, all of our feeding therapists and doctors haven’t been able to get Mia to eat, but maybe, just maybe, starvation is the key. Can’t believe no one has thought of that yet!
C: I could choose to educate her on our situation by telling her that actually, Mia is doing just fine.
Once upon a time we sat in a scary conference room with a team of doctors.
They told us that Mia would probably never eat on her own and would always be dependent on a feeding tube for all of her nutrition.
To be honest, I’ve tried every tactic listed above and many other variations, depending on my mood of the day.
If I have the time and energy, option ‘C’, is probably the most effective.
But on a bad day, I won’t lie, being sarcastic is very therapeutic.
If you are a parent struggling with the bombardment of advice from strangers, try not to take it too seriously.
I know it is hard.
Laugh it off.
Make a list of the ‘best’ advice you’ve received.
I regularly write down the gems, for a good laugh.
If you are a bystander, itching to give advice, perhaps think twice before speaking about how your advice may be taken by an overtired parent with many worries.
Recently, the advice of the grandma club has tapered off.
Nowadays, they offer to get my coffee refilled, or fetch me a water.
That is the help that I’ll gladly take on.
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