Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pass the Pinot #1: Everyone's an Expert

So here's the first installment in a series covering the annoyances as depicted in the lush-y parenting books that I've read. First up is dealing with overbearing know-it-alls that dole out unsolicited parenting advice. This is a common one, especially for first-time parents. Everyone thinks that they are an expert and that it's perfectly fine to lay their pearls of wisdom on you. Complete strangers who won't even tell you that you are about to drive away with your $7 Pomegranate Pick-Me-Up smoothie with a wheatgrass energy shot on the roof of your car, have no problem telling you how to raise your child.

The problem is that a lot of people have kids. And they think that this alone qualifies them to proselytize to you. It's one thing if it's a relative or someone that you know giving the advice. At least you have some idea of how their kids turned out. But in the case of strangers, how do I know that Sonny-boy isn't some mother-hating sociopath doing time in juvie hall? Even if they are well-meaning, no one wants to hear it. Just the fact that someone felt compelled to give you advice in the first place probably means that your child wasn't behaving well, so you were already having a bad day.

For parents of a child with autism, this experience moves beyond the annoying and into soul-crushing territory. As annoying as these buttinskis are to typical parents, at least they have for the most part walked in your same shoes. Special needs parents are just as frequently, if not more so, subjected to unsolicited advice, but usually the person has no idea that their child is afflicted or, even if they do, they know absolutely nothing about autism. And what we get is usually not so much advice as judgment along the lines of “Why can’t you control your kid?” It is not uncommon for members of our own families to shunt aside the opinions of professionals and helpfully make their own diagnosis: “Autism, schmautism. He’s just a brat that needs a swift kick.” Of course, people of a certain age think that pretty much everyone on the planet that is not acting as they think they should be just needs a boot in the ass, including your typical kids, my autistic kid, the idiot driving in front on them, and pretty much anyone on their TV screen. I've learned to write off their crotchety "you kids get off of my lawn" brand of criticism. The stuff that really hurts is the judgment of other mothers of typical kids who seems to think that their child's angelicness vs. my child's disruptiveness is solely the result of their superior parenting abilities. And when I think about it, they usually don't actually have the nerve to say something straight to your face. They either give you a smug, pitying look, or pull my favorite passive-aggressive move of telling their child not to do something that your child is doing. "No Caden, we use our inside voice." "Sweetie, honeypot, sugar-ass, we play nicely."

And I think, "We would really like to hurt you very badly right now." Maybe the old farts aren't so bad after all.

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