Thursday, 7 June 2012

Good Advice (whether you want it or not)

I was a bit gobsmacked the other day when I read this post on a blog I like.  For those of you who can't be bothered clicking (I'm pretty link lazy myself), the post shows the writer defending the publishing of a photo of her child crying.  I'm reposting the photo here so you can see it for yourself.

If you're like me, you're reaction to this photo is probably something like "haha, I know how you feel honey.  Putt putt has driven me to tears too.  And you had to be dragged around with your wee harness.  Oooh cute yellow shoes".
Apparently though, there are many other people out there who did not react with the same level of amusement.  In fact there were many people who responded to this with quite a different reaction.  The writer reported people saying that she was a bad mother and even more extreme, that her child should be taken away from her.
Can I get a "What the actual heck?", please??????

I am not here to debate the pros and cons of having a child wear a harness (or whatever they're called).  I will however quickly defend the idea of taking a photo of an upset child.  Children throw tanties.  It's part of the way most children communicate.  They're expressing their wants and desires and they are testing out every possible method of doing this.  Throwing a wobbly doesn't mean the child is desperately unhappy, just that they don't like something at that particular moment.  So taking a photo of a child in this state is like taking a photo of an adult saying "I'm so bored right now", but it would make a pretty crap photo.  Kids pulling pouty faces is amusing because it's such a fantastically infantile way to communicate.  They (hopefully) only do it for a short period of their lives and so it falls into the "Kids do the Darndest Things" category - lots of people like that category of humour.  Which is why I think this photo of Edie is funny.

We didn't stick pins in her to upset her then laugh uproariously and stick a camera in her face.  The camera was at hand because this was the first time we put her in her fancy new chair and this was her reaction.  As it turns out, it was funny because it was the opposite reaction from what we anticipated.  And because Edie is making her feelings very clear.  It still makes me laugh.

Anyway, this is not the point of my post today.  What I actually want to talk about it why people think it's their place to offer their opinions to others, completely unsolicited.  Especially when that opinion is judgmental and contrary to the behaviour of the recipient.  I freely admit that on more than one occasion, I have given my opinion to someone who didn't want it.  We've all done it, it's not that I'm a terrible person for doing this, just a little injudicious with my thoughts.  However, I have noticed that there are two particular times in one's life when the "advice" comes thick and fast.

The first begins the day you announce that you are engaged to be married.  Suddenly, every woman and her chihuahua is telling you exactly what you should and should not do in the lead up to your wedding day.  Shot gun weddings begin to seem appealing.  Most of this advice comes from the right place - people are trying to be helpful.  They are sharing the learning from their experience, or the experiences of people they know.  Or read about in some magazine.  Or met once at a bus stop.  It's just a reality of your situation and I found it quite easy to just smile and nod and move on.

The second time in one's life when people have verbal advice diarrhea is when you become pregnant.  People tell you how to get through your pregnancy, what you should or shouldn't do in labour, what things you must buy or must not buy... the list seems endless.  And again, it's mostly well-meaning.  You just take what is useful to you and ignore the rest (although it can all be pretty confusing as you really have no idea what the hell you are doing).  And then the child arrives and you now have to negotiate the mine field of raising them - pleeeeeeenty of advice for that too, let me tell you.

But it's when this advice turns to judgement that I become bemused.  "Oh no, you can't do that".  "There's no way you should be doing it that way!".  "You're making a mistake there".

Are people really so obtuse that they can't appreciate that each person's situation is different?  That someone may gain insight from their experiences, but that they are just that - their experiences, not yours.

That girl who took a photo of her child in a single flash of a moment surely has more insight into the well-being and mood of that child then I, as someone at the other end of an internet connection who has never seen let alone met that child, could ever have.  I do appreciate that there are some people who really are unfit to raise their kids and while some behaviours are a clear cut no-no, there are others that work on a scale and are therefore hard determine appropriateness without examination and discussion.  But for the most part, parents are just doing the best they can with the resources they have.  They love their kids and are making what they see as the best choices for them.  I might not agree but I'm not them, I don't have their child.  Who am I to say whether it's right for them or not?

In my (perhaps overly simplistic) opinion, the people who are willing to be so black and white about what is right and wrong are the people who need closer examination.  If they are passing on this inflexibility and lack of tolerance to any children they might have, it does not bode well.  I'm sure we can all think of other societal issues where these attitudes are having a negative effect.

So now that I've ranted about that, I'd just like to send a message of love and acceptance to all you wonderful people.  Take photos of your children throwing tantrums - I will laugh.  Wear black and green to your wedding - I'll still come and drink your bubbly.  You can even give me advice about what I should or shouldn't do.  But if I don't do what you advise, just make sure you talk about me behind my back instead of preaching to my face.  That's the constructive way to do it...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Charlotte, it's Amy from "Hey Nice Cardigan...", I've just been enjoying exploring your blog. I saw this post on the Skunkboy blog too, couldn't believe she got such an extreme reaction to that photo - I've got loads of photos of my baby having a tantrum, because I want a record of what it was REALLY like when he was little, the rough times as well and the smiles and giggles, it never crossed my mind that anyone would be upset by the idea of taking a photo like that. Really enjoyed reading this post, thanks for sharing! Amy XO