My wife and I have admitted publicly that we have no idea what we’re doing… well, at least to you all. What is becoming more and more obvious is that everyone knows that we have no idea what we’re doing. Who told all of them? Are we wearing a shirt that says, “We are new at this?” Is it the look on our faces while we roam up and down the baby formula aisle? Or maybe the way we point out stroller features we like and don’t like? Is every private conversation between us suddenly up for public debate and comment? The answer, I fear, is yes.
We went shopping on Saturday at a mall, and spent a good amount of time scoping out other people’s strollers, slings, and Bjorns. As we headed into a department store, we talked (in a normal conversational voice) about if not knowing the gender of our baby would suck the fun out of clothes shopping, since by the time we would know the gender, we would be those new sleepless mother zombies with no time to roam about shopping malls picking out pink or blue outfits. One lady walking behind us (or, rather, out of nowhere) piped up and told us something to the effect of – it wouldn’t matter, and that girls are fun to shop for. Sort of like Pop-Up Video for new parents.
We’ve also witnessed this unsolicited advice phenomenon on facebook. Our parental friends, of new or experienced, are bombarded with endless advice and suggestion comments if their status so much mentions their exhaustion (Oh, it will get better! You think it’s bad now!?) or baby’s first restless night (Try swaddling! Do you have a co-sleeper?) or baby’s first airplane trip (Bring toys, snacks! Have her drink a bottle during take-off!) – and it goes on and on, until the little box under the comment says “Read More…”. I find that I could update my status about my newly amputated arm (lies!), and no one will comment. I imagine, though, once I start complaining about a sore nipple, dozens or more of my piddly 193 friends will have something to say. About my nipple. Poor wife has 332 friends. Poor wife.
While some of it, I’m sure, has significant merit, at least facebook comments are from people I know… you know, like that one girl in high school I was friends with whom I haven’t seen since 1995. It’s unsolicited, sure, but you have to assume that, by updating your status, you are surely outwardly asking, begging, pleading for help and solutions that everyone who has escaped safely from zombie mother-land can offer you. Save yourself! When everyone’s parenting situation is different – financial, emotional, physical, locational – it’s hard to feel like anyone really knows best, but to understand that they are all speaking from their own respective experiences. All parents are different; all babies are different. We now know four? five? babies on baby Zantac for reflux. Is that because there’s an influx of reflux? Or because hundreds of facebook commenters have insisted that the reason your baby pukes up their bottle or screams in the middle of a feeding is due to reflux. No one will ever know.
I suppose this is evolution in action. At some point, hundreds and thousands of years ago, I’m sure cavewomen were telling other cavewomen, “Use this rock instead of that rock!” It’s the reason the crib I used in 1977 would be condemned today. It’s all very fascinating, but hard not to take so personally when you’re subject to correction-by-stranger in any given baby aisle, no matter how quiet your voice is. Funny this doesn’t happen in other aisles, when I sometimes feel like I’d like some advice – is this hammer better than that hammer? Why is this face lotion so much more expensive? Do I need a self-propelled lawn mower? (Yes, yes, you do.) Where are these strangers when my wife and I are having a loud and flailing conversation comparing space heaters?
Alas, since we cannot relocate to a more remote location where we could raise our baby in a merchandise-less world among wild packs of wolves… and as much as we would like to do 110% of our baby shopping online, we apparently will not be able to resist the call of the baby aisles – though, as we’ve learned, no where is safe.