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Monday, March 9, 2009

The Youshoulds and the Knowitalls

You've met them, some well intentioned, some not. They probably raised children half a century ago, or maybe they don't have any children at all. But they know how to raise yours. And whatever you are doing is definitely not at all the way you are supposed to be raising your children.

From how to dress them to how to prepare them for the world, the youshoulds and the knowitalls have all the answers to all of your problems – surprisingly, even when you aren't aware that you have any problems.

My first introduction to those people came before I gave birth. I saw the disgust in their faces. They looked first at me and then at my belly. Their chins raised a little, their lips gnarled in disgust, and they either shook their heads or muttered such nonsensical utterances as, "You'll never carry that baby to term – your hips are too small."

Because I was not yet eighteen – and also rebellious – I took their advice venomously. I wanted to attack them.

Had I not been so young my perspective would have been more mature. I might have recognized the youshoulds and the knowitalls for what they were, intrusive. Even good advice gets lost in the quagmire of youshoulds: You should have a hat on that child. You should NOT have that child out in this weather (even if you've just returned from the doctor's office and are standing at the prescription counter).

Recognizing that some people cannot help themselves puts the whole "you should" into perspective. One woman I knew consistently told me to either put a sweater on the baby or take the sweater off the baby. I paid attention to the weather, and on days when the weather was the same as it was the last time we met, whatever I did, she told me "you should" do the opposite.

Some people just like to be heard. They just want attention. They want you to know how intelligent they are. And some people just want you to know they care. If it truly does take a village to raise a child, some kindhearted people are just trying to join your village. Ignore the ones whose sole intention is to make you feel bad about yourself and welcome the ones who are truly trying to help. 

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