I thought about what could be a new expression relating to parenting as we know it in the twenty first century — though I am getting the inclination that it may be an ages old way of thinking that just has found new ways to raise its ugly head. We know about Helicopter Parenting and Velcro Parenting — but are you familiar with backseat parenting?
The definition of backseat parenting is when a person — it could be someone with whom you are acquainted or a total stranger — approaches you and tells you about what you should be differently in raising your child or children. I do not mean when someone tells you about something they have heard is useful — a new educational toy. I refer instead to when your methodology is marked as being wrong because theirs is superior and must be used.
On more than one occasion, strangers have approached Elizabeth — my wife and new mother — in public and have reproached her parenting while being shockingly naive about the factors that led us to our parenting choices. One person, for example, said our son was too young to come out in public — based on his perceived age.
Perceived age is no good for prematurely born babies like Chaim Yosef. He looked one month old when he was two months old. Once the person was informed of his age the judgement was withdrawn. The mind instantly must wonder — who gave that person the right to step in and tell Elizabeth that she was erring in her parental judgement?
The what of the issue doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the why. Namely, why would you approach a stranger in public to tell them they are making wrong life choices? We have gotten some backseat parenting from our own family as well — they mean so well but sometimes their information sources are just a bit outdated. Other times, they presume to know better than our family doctor — at which point we have to just smile and nod and say that we will look into whatever tin foil hat strategy they recommend — and go on with our sound medical approaches.
On more than one occasion, for example, my mother has told me that I am holding Chaim for too long of a time and that I should put him down in his swing or chair because otherwise he will be too clingy. Thanks, but that hasn’t happened and over time he has become less so.
Another time, one of Elizabeth’s Aunts told her that she had bought the wrong kind of bassinet for Chaim and that she should reconsider and buy a different one. This was coming from someone who had never had any children and was just going on something that she had read in a magazine. When you don’t have any children it immediately puts a bit of a discount on any parenting advice that you might have — no matter how good the magazine is from where your advice is coming.
Sometimes the best response to a backseat parent is no response — or a curt “Thank You” to acknowledge you have received their message but wish not to respond. If you feel the need to be a backseat parent, hold back! We parents thank you in advance for your restraint.