I went to a birthday party recently, and one of the babies (probably 11 months old) was quite sizeable. She was absolutely adorable with her rolls and her chins, this much is true, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how deliciously chunky she looked. Not being overly close or comfortable with her parents, I did something people may find remarkable: I kept my big mouth shut.
I know, groundbreaking, right? One might be wondering how I accomplished the feat of not saying exactly what I was thinking. It’s easy, really. You know how you’re not talking right now? Yeah, I just did that. Why? Well, I know my intentions were good, but I didn’t know if there was an underlying health issue or if they usually hear not well-intended comments from strangers about their baby’s size.
In the spirit of this incident (or lack thereof), I thought I might compile a list of things one need not say to parents of young children. (Feel free to post a link to this article on your social media as a passive-aggressive stab at your mouthy aunt Cathy.)
“You look like you have your hands full!”
Why it’s wrong: Regardless of the intended sentiment, hearing this makes me feel like everyone knows I have a pile of wrinkled, month-old clean laundry that I move from my bed to the ironing board each day. This statement is usually delivered when I’m already having a shit time. Picture an overflowing shopping cart, with one child covered in snot from the tantrum they’ve just thrown and the other in an arms-crossed, furrowed-brow stare-down with her shoes because she’s been denied the sugary processed cereal her friends have at home.
What to say instead: “Bedtime is coming. You’re doing great!”
“You’re going to miss this.”
Why it’s wrong: The intended message can’t register because the recipient hasn’t slept properly in months. Once they are well-rested, they may come upon an old, disgusting pacifier stuck between the couch cushions and ugly-cry cheap mascara all over their huge, neglected pores because, dammit, you were right, they do miss those days.
What to say instead: “I really miss those days. You’re doing great!”
“She’s really determined (willful/spirited/passionate), isn’t she?”
Why it’s wrong: Your kid isn’t determined; she’s acting like an a-hole, and unsolicited, albeit diplomatic, commentary only fuels my concern that she may have a future in organized crime.
What to say instead: “Everybody’s been there. You’re doing great!”
Suffice it to say vague encouragement is usually the answer. Hold the door open, pretend not to notice when she can’t navigate the stroller around doorways or sharp turns, look away if she’s fumbling with her nursing situation, and when in doubt, zip the lip. Cheers, friends!