I was at the pharmacy the other day, toddler sucking her thumb quietly in stroller, when the woman ahead of me in line turned around and exclaimed, “That’s gonna RUIN her teeth! RUIN them!” as she gestured her thumb toward her mouth. Was she telling me to make my 2-year-old stop sucking her thumb right now?
“Oh, yeah,” I said, trying to brush it off. “I’m not too worried about it.”
But she insisted, “No, they’ll be ruined! It’ll save you a LOT of money in braces if she stops.”
“Thanks, but she’ll probably have braces anyway. I’m not too worried about it” (and please leave me alone and deal with your own problems…don’t you have a urinary tract infection to take care of?).
She made one more urgent gesture and walked away.
I wanted to make a gesture of my own.
Listen, I know every parenting decision is basically controversial. This “baby sleep expert” tumblr underscores how confusing it can be to do the right thing when it comes to your kids. I also know that this woman meant well and that she probably dealt with the heartache of bad teeth in her childhood and only meant to spare my daughter a lifetime of dental misery.
HOWEVER. I never asked for any advice. And in giving unsolicited advice, she is assuming that I don’t know any better, which can come off as insulting. Moreover, she didn’t ask if I was concerned about the thumb sucking, which would have opened a dialogue about how her dentist actually said it wouldn’t be an issue for another few years, that her doctor said that braces are cheaper than therapy (self-soothing is a valuable tool), that my husband and I were both thumb suckers, and had braces for unrelated reasons…she was basically telling me how to be a parent without knowing that hey, I’ve already looked into this and I’m okay with it.
So a word to all you wise, unsolicited-parenting-advice-givers: if I want your help or advice, I will ask for it. And if you give it, I will appreciate it. Otherwise, please mind your beeswax.