To the Busy Bodies: Mind Your Own Parenting

February 25, 2006

I was checking out of the Whole Foods in Berkeley yesterday when a middle-aged woman with a head of frizzy grey hair approached me, and said, “You know, I am a writer and I am an observant person. I noticed that your son was not close to you as you were shopping. Someone can take him!”

The cashier snorted. I smiled and gathered the two toddler boys I had in tow — so much for your keen sense of awareness, biaach — and immediately departed the store. Of course, it didn’t help my case that my son then threw a temper tantrum right in front of her! I was forced to drag him out of the store by the arm, with my groceries in the other hand and the other boy running to keep up.

This incident left me in a foul mood. It is not the first time a complete stranger lectured me on the finer points of parenting. I’ve had at least a few incidents at Whole Foods alone.

In another incident shortly after my son was born, I was in the checkout lane when my baby began to cry. I left his pacifier in the car. My food was already on the conveyer belt so I decided to wait and let him “cry it out.” On my way out, an elderly woman clasped my wrist and said, “I know this is a difficult thing for you to hear right now. But you really shouldn’t let them cry like that. It isn’t good for them.”

Where do these women get off telling complete strangers how to parent? The reason I single out women is because I have never been lectured by a man in public. Men act as if they don’t care whether my baby cries or toddler runs around the store. As long as I don’t bother them, they mind their own business.

I have seen women spank and even yell expletives to their children in public. And while I would never do that to my son — well, it depends on what he does! — I figure that a mother knows her child best. I would never interfere with her disciplining her own child. Here is something we can learn from men: Mind your own parenting!