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Keep It To Yourself

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The other day I received an email from one of my mom friends on vacation:

"Exactly as I expected we got some funny comments from the uninitiated childless friends -- my personal fave is that my friend's husband is going to be the type of dad who just carries a diaper in his pocket b/c that is all you really need! Yeah, try using that diaper when your kid has an explosive poop, which travels all the way up her back and stains everything she is wearing. Maybe you can wipe her off with your own underwear and dress her in your socks as she lies on your T-shirt. Then you can walk home in just your pants while she screams her face off because you have no bottle, binky or toys to entertain her!"

We mommies and daddies get a lot of "back-seat parenting" from non-parents. Suggestions, advice, and snarky comments on how they would or will do things better. I guess from the outside parenting looks...easy? Like we're all making our own lives, and the lives of our children, unnecessarily complicated with all our fancy-shmancy "diaper bags" and "wipes" and "toys" and whatnot.

When my own Juban Princeling was going through a particularly fussy phase early in his infancy, one of my husband's co-workers brilliantly suggested we give him a pacifier. As if all this time the answer to our dilemma was so obvious, right under our noses, and why hadn't we thought of that? With an apartment full of ten bajillion pacifiers lying around, why didn't we think to pick one up and stick it in the Princeling's mouth? You mean, there's a plug for his noise hole?

Another mom friend of mine, whose beautiful little girl happens to be bald, constantly gets asked when the baby is going to grow some hair. Answer: my friend is waiting for the day when a messenger from God comes down from Heaven and gives her the go-ahead to press the "hair" button on her baby. "Dammit, I knew I forgot something. I forgot to teach her how to grow hair!"

One of the moms in my weekly mommy get-together was asked by her own father, on the day she brought her baby home from the hospital, why she didn't just give him a bottle of formula because breastfeeding seemed "like such a hassle." Because if there's one thing we women, especially brand-new mothers, enjoy hearing, especially from men and especially from our fathers, is that breastfeeding "seems like a hassle."

But the best comments always come in the form of people thinking they know better than we do what is best for our babies. Another mommy in my weekly group says people ask her whether the sling or baby-carrier she uses is safe. You know, I bet she hadn't even thought of that! Who cares about safety when I can so comfortably strap my baby to my chest and schlep her around that way, because the last trimester of pregnancy was so much fun that we are all dying to relive it? My friend says they even ask her if the baby can breathe. Her response? "No, I like carrying a non-breathing baby around."

While she was visibly pregnant, my friend Hey, Jude went to a coffee shop and ordered a latte. A complete stranger said to her, "So, I guess you're just leaving this one up to fate, eh? You're not supposed to have caffeine," to which Hey, Jude responded, "So, I guess you're a Nosy Nellie who should keep her mouth shut. You're not my midwife." (For those of you clutching your pearls and reaching for your smelling salts right now, the March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women only limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day, or about one cup of coffee.)

Speaking of pregnancy, during my friend the Ex-Pat's pregnancy, her own boss -- a woman -- walked by her desk and asked her if she felt like she was getting fat. In what universe is it ever acceptable to ask anyone that, ever?

The fact is, no one knows exactly what they will do or how they will handle situations until you are there in the thick of it. While Hey, Jude was pregnant a friend asked her if she was going to be one of those "hippie weirdoes" who co-sleeps with her baby. That friend of hers is now due in October, and Hey, Jude says she can't wait to see how the sleeping arrangements end up for her. Even the Princeling, who is so independent that a week after he was born he would gladly have moved into his own apartment had he not needed us for things like food, diaper changes, and transportation, once spent a night in our bed because he just would not sleep otherwise.

While I was pregnant, my brother-in-law's partner asked if we were going to be those crazy "Baby Mozart type" parents. Well, maybe, maybe not. We want to do what's right by our baby, and if that means playing some Mozart now and then for him, we think that's fine. (FYI, we also play Green Day, Princess Superstar, Jay-Z, and Northern State for him. We want him to be well-rounded.) In fact, despite what the American Academy of Pediatrics says, I do let the Princeling watch a little TV every day. It's less than an hour per day, and with him awake for several hours at a time now I could not get anything done if I spent every one of his waking minutes keeping him entertained myself. Since I'm not using the TV as a babysitter all day long, I don't feel guilty about this. Baby Einstein and Noggin keep him distracted long enough for me to do fun stuff like the dishes and laundry.

Because even my baby, who has enough toys and books to fill Santa's workshop ten times over, sometimes gets sick of crawling around and playing and just wants to veg out to a little "Yo Gabba Gabba" before his evening bottle and bath. And you know what? That works for us.

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