Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself


Illustration for article titled Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself

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We’re living in a particularly divided country right now, but we are lucky to still have one great rage-inducing unifier among parents: We do not want your unsolicited opinions about our parenting. This is especially true if you do not have children of your own. (Dogs don’t count.)

I have to believe author Jill Filipovic simply wanted to argue about something unrelated to the literal end of our democracy when she tweeted this sparkling gem of an opinion recently:

In a follow-up tweet, she rhetorically ponders, “Do you think children in most of the world order off of a ‘kids menu’ and survive primarily off of chicken fingers and plain pasta?”

It seems her argument is that kids should have more variety in their diets, ignoring that kids’ menus exist to offer smaller, significantly cheaper portions of food for children to make it affordable and less wasteful when families go out to eat. But see, this is why parenting opinions from non-parents is so universally grating: They’re blind to fundamental aspects of parenting that are obvious to those of us who have actually done it.

Yes, you’re very smart, and you’ll introduce your kids to lots of flavors, and they’ll always eat exactly what you eat because there’s no way you’ll cook one meal for you and a separate meal for them. If you become a parent, what’s more likely is that we can look forward to hearing you say, “No, honey, you have to buy the dinosaur-shaped nuggets; he doesn’t like the regular ones.”

There’s another category of parental advice-givers that might actually be worse, though: parents of one baby who think they’ve got the next 18 years figured out. They see the way you use that TV as a babysitter; they hear how you raise your voice at your kids, and they know: They will never do that.

Take, for example, this parent, who wrote in to Slate’s Care and Feeding column, baffled over the unsolicited feedback they received from friends about how they parent their six- and three-year olds. They need anger management courses, said the friends, who are the parents of a—wait for it—10-month-old baby:

My wife and I have gone over and over the evening (not hard to do—this was a sober gathering), and … we’re still confused! I raised my voice once to correct my 6-year-old from walking into the street so they could hear me over the wind. I corrected my 3-year-old to move off the walking path to maintain physical distance from another group coming the opposite direction. I reminded my 3-year-old that there’s no dessert if her plate isn’t finished. That’s about it.

That seems … like regular parenting to me? No profanity, no name calling, no threats, just … regular. Don’t run into traffic. Make room for others because of the virus. Eat your dinner if you want a cookie. That’s fine, right?

Even the seemingly well-intentioned, “I swear I’m not judgmental, I just really want to help,” parenting advice is misguided, at best. You think you have identified the reason why little Johnny is always throwing a fit, or refusing to sit at the dinner table, or stomping up the stairs and slamming his door? You’re sure you can gently explain how, from the outside looking in, you can see that a little more consistency or discipline or whatever is what Johnny needs?

Yeah, we know those solutions, too. Did you know that being a parent all day, every day is hard? That’s why we seem so frazzled and short-tempered and tired; it’s from all the trying-to-raise-decent-human-beings-or-at-least-keep-them-alive that we’re doing all the time.

Or, as Michelle Herman wrote for Slate to one such non-parent who wants to “kindly share their observations”:

I know you mean well, but there is absolutely zero chance that your friend doesn’t already know that “if the parents operated on the same page and supported each other,” things might possibly be easier. If they could do that right now, they would be doing it. Wading into their marriage and child-rearing quagmire will do nothing to help them but may well damage your friendship irreparably.

You know who else doesn’t need to give advice? Parents of only children to parents who have multiple children. Parents of neurotypical children to parents of children who are neurodiverse. Parents of biological children to parents of adoptive or foster children. Parents with grown children who are not currently raising children during a pandemic.

Plus, everyone else. Unless you’re talking about a legitimate safety issue, or unless and until a parent asks you—this will never happen—how you’d feed your hypothetical child, or how you’d ensure that you never raised a child who uttered a disrespectful word, sit down. You’re wrong, and nobody asked you.

Also, chicken fingers aren’t “kid food,” Jill. They’re delicious and they’re for all of us.

To Jill’s credit, though, she can at least admit when she’s wrong. When I reached out to her about this piece to see if she had any further comment, she wrote back:

I was surprised to see the tweet go as viral as it has given how trivial it was, but that is the magic of Twitter. What’s clear is that nearly everyone was united in telling me that I am wrong, so I accept my judgment: I was wrong on the internet. If I ever have kids, I’ll tweet an update a few years in to confirm exactly how wrong I was. I’m glad, at least, that my utterly asinine tweet gave people something very low-stakes to be indignant about. Compared to a Supreme Court nominee who will roll back women’s rights, a pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, and a president who is trying to steal an election, a tweet about kids’ food from a person who has no ability to influence what even a single kid eats is very inconsequential, but honestly a nice distraction from the rest of our hellish lives. It almost felt like [the] Before Time.

It honestly was a nice distraction.


[Updated at 4:17 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2020 to add a comment from Jill Filipovic.]





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