I was reading an annoyingly bratty article titled, “Hello Stranger On the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How to Take Care of My Baby?” when it hit me that I have never once been offered parenting advice from a complete stranger. I’ve frequently heard, “Your baby is so cute,” “How old is she,” and “Oh, she’s so smiley!” but never once has anyone ever come up to me to tell me what I should or should not do with my child.
So, I got to thinking, “What if these women — who write irritating and defensive articles about their parenting — are, in fact, doing such a lousy job at rearing their children that complete strangers feel compelled to intervene in some fashion?”
I remember once walking past a child who was crying from a scraped and bloody knee, while his mother poured water over it and impatiently asked, “Does that feel better?” Yes, because we all know that the healing properties of water can instantly take away all pain. It took everything I had in me to stop myself from chewing out the mother and taking the kid to get some real medical attention, and if the injury had been any worse then I probably would have.
Another time, in another state, my Lover and I watched a woman pushing a stroller with a screaming toddler. Every time she stopped and stepped to the side or the front of the stroller to look at something, the toddler would reach out toward her to be held, but the mother seemed determined to ignore him. We watched this for a few minutes, until my Lover felt compelled to yell at the woman to hold her child, after which she was very quick to attend to the toddler’s needs.
I have seen parents scream at their children, ignore them, punish them unfairly, or just be downright incompetent, and I know that I’m not the only one who has seen events like this, because they all happened in crowded places. So, what are we supposed to do? Intervening may cause the parents to become angry and defensive (there seems to be a strong correlation between bad parenting and aggression), or they may go home and write bitchy articles to publicly shame anyone away from standing up for children.
Parents already have a lot of leniency; it’s taboo to intervene when a child displays emotional upset in public — which in and of itself makes sense; children can be volatile and unpredictable creatures — but there is a line between a child throwing a tantrum because they can’t have something they want, and a child who clearly needs some parental affection, or proper medical care, or simply some reassurance that they’re loved and cared for. It’s not hard to see why someone who treats their children like animate dolls might find themselves subject to unsolicited advice, and it’s impossible to make the argument that just because it’s “someone else’s kid”, that a decent human being hasn’t the responsibility to stand up for them.