Giving new parents advice

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A woman with a newborn is a magnet to older women. They chase new mothers like zombies in a bad horror movie, arms extended, wanting to hold your baby, or more terrifying yet, reswaddle him or her “the proper way.”

One day at Walmart, before I had any children of my own, I was in line behind a mother and her young son, who was playing voraciously with a red circular plastic toy block, which had a little hole through the center. The kid was having a grand time sticking it in his mouth and gumming the heck out of it. It seemed like it could provide hours of entertainment. I inwardly commended his mother for finding such a simple toy to keep him so well occupied on a shopping trip. The old woman in the check-out line next to us, however, said, with great gravity and concern, “He’s putting that whole thing in his mouth.” The boy’s mother simply smiled at the woman, saying and doing nothing else. I was too busy admiring the mom and thinking, “Good for you!” to see the old woman’s reaction to such a flippant response. She was probably shaking her head and muttering to herself, “In my day….”

Evidently it’s hard to resist the lull of giving new moms unsolicited advice. When I was, inevitably, on the receiving end, it was always annoying, which is why I was horrified the day I discovered I had become the old woman.

There I was in a grocery store line, three kids under my belt by this time, when behind me came a young woman with a newborn strapped in a carseat placed in the shopping cart. The baby began to cry a bit, her mother’s attempts at entertaining her with rattles and sparkly toys failing. Despite myself, I heard my voice saying, “Try rocking the cart a little bit. That always worked for me.” The mom, without even looking at me, replied a bit snidely, “Well, she’s hungry, so I don’t think that will work.”

“Oh, yeah. If she’s hungry, then maybe not,” I said with a little laugh, trying to cover the hurt caused by the woman’s tone. Then it finally hit me: I had become the old woman. I was now that person I inwardly cringed away from when I was a new mother. I was shocked, first of all because it made me feel really old to discover that I was now on the giving, instead of the receiving end of these exchanges, and secondly because I had vowed long ago that I would never become that woman.

As I paid for my groceries and began walking away, I saw out of the corner of my eye that the mom was rocking the cart, and it was indeed working. Still, insulted by the mother’s reaction to my stellar advice, I shook my head and muttered, “In my day….”

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