To the Strangers Who Tell Me How to Parent My Child

Just because someone tells me how to parent doesn’t mean I have to do it their way. But it can’t hurt to listen, because I’ve never done this before. I’d rather have too much advice than too little. I’d rather have too much information and choose what I need. I’d rather be surrounded by people who care about me and my baby than do this motherhood thing in isolation.

Not every stranger knows what she’s talking about. Not every person was a great parent. But taking advice isn’t so much about us as it is about the person from whom we take it. I want my daughter to know that people have value. I want my daughter to appreciate community. I want her to respect her elders and cultivate a teachable heart.

How can I expect that from her if I don’t expect that from myself?

When the woman with bad breath reaches for my baby in the produce aisle, I don’t scowl and walk away. I can see the memories etched in the wrinkles on her face and the glow of remembrance in her eyes and I wait. I wait for the story about her daughter – because it will come. She tells me how to parent my child and I’m not offended.

I can learn.

My generation is lonely. Moms in general get lonely, but I think my generation is lonelier than ever. Our community is virtual and competitive. Our reality is isolated and withdrawn. What to Expect in the First Year is enough for us; why listen to the middle-aged mom in Aisle 6? Why entertain these “nosy” strangers who just want to give advice?

Because maybe – just maybe – they’ve lived a little longer

Maybe they know something of value.

Maybe we can learn.

The advice isn’t going to stop. Some people will applaud my parenting and others will judge it. They’ll condemn my choices or celebrate them. I’m sure I’ll be told I’m too harsh or too easy; too bad or too good. But that’s to be expected – I’ve never done this before.

Motherhood is a journey, and we need people around us as we walk this road. We need people to care. When we hold everyone at arm’s length, taking offense at the slightest comment on our choices, we’re cheating ourselves. We’re missing out on the richness of human existence. You can’t have the good without the bad; people will care about our parenting for both right and wrong reasons. But they care, and that means something.

So please, tell me how to parent my child. I’ve never done this before.

Phylicia Masonheimer
Phylicia Masonheimer
Phylicia Masonheimer is the founder of Every Woman a Theologian, a ministry teaching Christians how to know what they believe and live gospel truth with grace. Formerly addicted to erotica, she also writes about sexuality and finding freedom from the shame of sexual addiction. She is an author, blogger, and host of the chart-topping podcast Verity with Phylicia Masonheimer. She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and three children.

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