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Advice from strangers

Baby experts. They are everywhere, ready to offer advice. You can find them shopping in the grocery store, writing blogs on the internet, and almost anywhere you turn. In a few months, I plan on proclaiming myself as one. Get ready, world. Picture a young couple walking with a stroller at the local mall. Now...

032013dev-featureBaby experts. They are everywhere, ready to offer advice. You can find them shopping in the grocery store, writing blogs on the internet, and almost anywhere you turn. In a few months, I plan on proclaiming myself as one. Get ready, world.
Picture a young couple walking with a stroller at the local mall. Now picture me “accidentally” crossing paths with them and starting up a conversation about swaddling. “Excuse me, miss, but your baby is poorly swaddled. And your baby hates you for it.” While this is admittedly dramatic, the truth remains: It has become increasingly common to find outspoken parents that love sharing their growing baby knowledge in ANY situation. They might be getting an oil change or brushing teeth in a public restroom. They might be sitting in a dentist’s office waiting room, strolling through an apartment complex hallway, or running awkwardly on a gym treadmill. These experts are all around us.
Over the past few weeks, I have come across various strangers who wished to speak with me about parenting preparation. They just wanted to help. They saw a naïve young kid with a desire to learn, and they had likely watched Stand And Deliver six times during middle school. They wanted to seize their teaching moment. It certainly does not help that I have the face of a lost puppy and the welcoming demeanor of a coffee shop barista. The experts are drawn to me. One gentleman recently found that I was reading a book on parenting, and he was afraid that my learning experience would lack this all-important contribution:
“Study up, man. Keep studying. You still won’t know anything, though. Ha ha.”
That was all he said. The man never stopped walking, or invited me to talk. I was tempted to say “Oh no, I’m not having a baby. I just bought a hamster and I want to treat it really well.” His blank stare would have given me some satisfaction. I struggled to understand why a baby bump or a pregnancy book could be seen as an invitation to condescend and criticize.
Since that day, I have begun to understand why this happens. It’s natural. People are excited to find common ground with others and share from their abundance of knowledge. I can appreciate that. In fact, blogs like this one exist because people value shared experience. People want to feel connected to others as they embark on new journeys that could otherwise make them feel isolated. Not all baby experts make us feel unprepared. Some of them can make us feel connected, valued, and empowered.
It would be unfair for this writer to criticize all the experts. After all, I am a blogger. I share my experiences and opinions on various issues each week, under the assumption that my words might matter to someone, somewhere. Even non-bloggers practice this. Every time we write a twitter post, a Facebook update, or a blog about our daily minutia, we convince ourselves that people want to read what we have to say. I simply hope that when I eventually declare myself a baby expert, I will be able to identify the moments that call for silence.