This post is my response to the March blog carnival topic on dealing with questions, concerns and judgements in relation to unconventional parenting decisions. There were no other contributions for this month’s carnival, so next month I will give a little bit more lead time for submissions, which should hopefully enable more bloggers to participate. 🙂 So without further ado…
Oliver has a snowsuit, which has been worn precisely seven times. Three of those times were for snowshoeing or winter sailing. He does not own any other winter coats or pants. Most days, I take him out in pants and a short-sleeved shirt, with a sweater, hat, and shoes or boots. Sometimes we even skip the sweater. And now that he can quite deftly remove his own hat, he goes hatless with increasing frequency.
Oliver has a mid-weight bundle bag in his stroller, and it keeps him cozy and warm. On the few occasions I have put an extra layer on him, for example, if we were going to the park and I knew he was going to spend any significant amount of time outside the stroller, he has been overheated and sweaty when I removed him from the stroller.
So why is this at all controversial? Well, it appears that perfect strangers, accustomed to seeing infants bundled to the nines in winter, feel compelled to share their views on how I dress my baby. I’ve heard so many comments that it has gotten to the point where I actually start to feel defensive when people so much as look at Oliver that certain way — you know, that look that is simultaneously judgmental and pitying.
The looks and comments have made me acutely aware that I am probably one of few parents who dresses my baby this way on cold days. I don’t deliberately draw attention to Oliver’s (lack of) winter attire, but whenever I have to remove him from the stroller, it is there for every judgemental stranger to see… and to comment on.
At least once a week, some well-intentioned passerby will politely inform me, “I think your baby is cold.” This has even happened indoors, inside of stores, where I often take Oliver out of the bundle bag so he doesn’t get too warm. The worst times, though, are those where I have removed Oliver from the stroller to carry him because he was crying, and people have come up to me tell me that my baby (now in my arms) is crying is because he is cold. Usually, I shamefully mutter something about Oliver being a warm baby, and make my escape as quickly as possible.
A few weeks ago, en route to a community centre program, Oliver and I made a brief stop in a café next door to the centre. It was cold and rainy outside, and he had been ensconced in his stroller and covered with the plastic rain shield. I removed him from the stroller while we were in the café, and upon leaving, decided that it was easier for us to just dash next door as-is than to go through the rigamarole of putting him back in the stroller and zipping up the rain shield. So we made a run for it. In the rain. With no jackets.
When I arrived in the centre and stepped into the elevator, I got that look. For once, I pre-empted the impending comment, looked straight at the woman, and joked, “Yeah, I know. I’m a horrible, neglectful parent. But hey, he’s a hardy Canadian boy. He can take it.” She laughed and immediately started backtracking.
I don’t know why I find myself so bothered by this rather trivial issue; perhaps because it happens so frequently. And let’s face it, nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of unsolicited judgements and comments.
I’m not going to yield to public pressure and dress Oliver warmer than is comfortable for him, but I am truly at a loss for a way to politely, yet firmly, respond to let folks know that their input is unsought.
How do you respond when someone gives you unsolicited feedback on your parenting decisions?