I don’t know any parent who hasn’t been criticised by another adult in some way or another for how they are parenting their own child. Judging other people’s parenting skills (or the perceived lack thereof) is nothing new but it does seem to have become increasingly common. And vocal. V.E.R.Y. vocal. From frequent rants on social media bemoaning the fact that parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, to stories of mums shamed by sneaky shots taken of their supposed bad parenting (which then go viral), the latest sport is mum shaming*. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s a blood sport. Add a behavioural disorder into the mix and bingo, pray release the lions into the amphitheatre.
The case of the pink finger bun
The other morning I saw a mum with a toddler in a pram. We were queuing at the pharmacy and the little girl was having the most delightful time of it licking all the pink icing off a finger bun (I’m with her. The icing is most definitely the best bit). Predictably, there was sticky goo everywhere. On her hands, around her rosebud mouth, in her glorious tangle of curls, smeared across her pretty smocked sundress and all over her pram. I smiled at her and her weary mum. Mostly because I remembered those days when the tricky times of balancing the enjoyment of being in charge of a small person with feeling utterly overwhelmed by the sheer relentlessness of it all were long gone for me (now I’m in the arguably equally overwhelming – but less sticky-fingered – period of teenagers) but perhaps as well because I’m a sucker for curly-haired tots. Also, I am partial to baked goods.
The lady behind me was not quite so chuffed by the tableau in front of us. At first, it was just loud sighs and tuts. I turned to smile at her because it was just before Christmas and I was in a ‘I am spreading good cheer liberally’ kind of mood. Also, I like a chat. I’d assumed she was huffing and puffing because of the queue. She wasn’t.
‘Bit early for that.’ She nodded at the little girl.
‘Too early for an iced bun? Is there such a thing?’ I laughed. Honestly, I am so HILAIRE at times.
‘She shouldn’t be eating it at all.’
‘No need to comment’
Evidently, the toddler’s mum heard this for she turned in a ‘surely she’s not talking about me’ tentatively horrified sort of way to check. The way her cheeks flushed when she realised that she was the subject of this finger bun scrutiny made my insides curl. The finger bun police officer didn’t seem to notice. Or, if she did, care.
‘I said, your little girl shouldn’t be eating that. There are enough fat kids as it is.’
By now, the queue was staring. The flustered mum opened her mouth but stalled. The other lady was older, you see. We’re taught to respect our elders but not what to do if that courtesy is not a two-way street. The toddler opened her mouth and popped a piece of bun in it. She giggled happily.
I opened my mouth and the practised words slid easily off my tongue. ‘No need to comment.’
The lady rolled her eyes. The queue suddenly found itself intrigued by the nasal spray display. The lady left both the queue and pharmacy. The mum turned away, The toddler carried on munching and giggling.
Add ADHD and stir thoroughly…
The words I used are practised because you see, I have years of experience in this. Maybe because I am a catastrophically poor parent whose every move really deserves to be commented on. But possibly because when you’re the parent of ADHD children, there tends to be a rich mine of judgements to be made. And a long queue of people eager to make them. I’ve learnt to engage as little as possible and that the phrase ‘No need to comment’ seems to have most success at shutting down what can easily turn into a nasty situation. The sort that leaves me feeling churned and anxious for hours, if not days, afterwards. Yuck.
I wrote about the sort of stuff that many parents of ADHD kids have to put up with hearing for Kidspot. It was my top 10 of things not to say to a parent of ADHD kids. Because we’ve heard them all before and we’re sick to the back teeth of them. Believe me when I say there were many, many more than 10 I could have come up with. Allow me to bore you with them some day. No, really, I insist.
4 bonus pearlers parents of ADHD kids are told
For now, I’ll leave you with just four more of these nuggets of genius.
1. ‘So all three of your children have something WRONG with them.’
Not wrong, their fantastic brains are just wired differently.
2. ‘I bet you wish you’d never had kids.’
Um, no, you buffoon. All parenting is challenging and wonderful at the same time. It’s just about getting the balance right. I struggle at times. You?
3. ‘You’ll stunt their growth if you drug them.’
Allow me to introduce you to my two 6ft 4 sons and my youngest who, judging by the size of his feet, is going to be patting his brothers on the head in years to come.
4. ‘You need to be consistent with consequences.’
I am. So very, very mind-numbingly consistent that I bore the pants off myself, let alone anyone else. It’s probably the main reason why I am always up for a nap. Zzzzz.
*I’d love to say it’s parent shaming but it’s mums who cop the flack while men are still congratulated for ‘babysitting’ their own kids…