When I was pregnant with my first, a good friend gave me some advice. It was the best advice: "People are going to give you a lot of advice. Smile and nod and then do what's best for you and yours. They are not you."
To this day, I couldn't agree more. Advice is the "beard" of the insecure. People try to mask everything that's wrong in their life by telling other people how to fix theirs. Let's just all focus on our own sinking ships here.
Unless someone asks you for advice about a specific thing, you just keep all of your feelings to yourself.
The rules of tattling apply. Is someone bleeding or dying? Then I don't want to hear about it.
Here are a couple more rules:
1. If you have less kids than the person you are about to give advice to, back away slowly. You have no idea what you're talking about.
2. Unsolicated advice may be met with contempt. Please ask yourself if it is kind, helpful and necessary before you impart your wisdom.
3. Why do you care? If it's for the kids, that's awesome, Whitney Houston. But you are aware that this game of life is a zone defense. Have play dates at your house.
4. My kids look like hobos with ripped jeans and dirt on their face most days. Let's all agree that if the kids have a roof over their heads, food to eat, are loved and cared for ... and there aren't hard drugs in the house, you're already head and shoulders above the competition. Let's all turn the other way as they eat Cheerios off the ground.
5. We could all do better and be less lazy. Truth. Strict parents don't always produce the best children and visa versa. Maybe your kid needs a boot to the butt for talking back and mine needs an explanation of why we don't do that ... and then the boot.
6. If you have a friend who is going through something extreme in the parenting field, whether that be having a sick child, raising a child with a special need or losing a child - unless you have gone through what they have gone through, don't begin to give them advice on what to do or how to feel. The best thing you've got is sympathy because you can't even empathize. If you don't know what to say, nothing is always an option. A "What can I do for you" friend is always a good thing. One that brings wine is even better.
There is no way to be in someone else's shoes, so don't even try. They have a unique situation, just as you do, and their children are not yours. They have a completely different set of tools for coping with their problems than you do.
This day will provide a brand new set of challenges that I've maybe never had to deal with before and I'm not sure what my plan is yet. This is my first time in a lot of areas.
I admit to my kids all the time I don't have the answers. That's Google's job.
I don't need another mom telling me how I'm missing the mark. If I'm complaining about a problem it's because I need empathy, not advice. That's what all of this is about. That's why we reach out to each other and why I'm reaching out to you. We need to feel connected and that we are not alone. I feel it is a deep-rooted need inside of us all.
We are all "living the dream" one dirty load of laundry at a time, trying to answer the questions of the universe ... or just our fourth grader's math.
No advice please, just empathy.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.