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Is There Anything You Need?

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If it didn't take so long to make smoothies at the vegan, raw food, Jamaican stand -- I wouldn't have gotten stuck in conversation. That conversation -- where an all knowing, well-meaning, stranger delivers parenting advice.

My baby, 3 months old at the time, was sucking his pacifier like it was his job.

"You know, plastic leeches toxins."

I told the man that, yes, I knew and had received the rubber pacifier at the hospital.

"Ohhh....you had a hospital birth?"


And so it is daily for parents. Loads of unsolicited advice, delivered with a hefty side of judgment.

"Why would you deny your precious infant breast milk?" said to a friend who had just adopted. Or, my favorite, offered to a weary mother entertaining two kids during an airport delay: "This is coming from a place of love. That's really not a developmentally appropriate task for your daughter."

It's open season on parenting -- an all-you-can criticize comment period that never ends. Arguably, it should be, it's one of the most important things adults do. But why so much correction and so very little aid? Are advice-givers really so sure what we're lacking is knowledge? Perhaps the effort is there and it's in the execution that we screw up sometimes. Or we're doing things our way and our kids are as unique as the adults who raise them.

Raising a kid is hard. Ask anyone who has accidentally had their toddler lock themselves and the keys in the car at Target or watched their kid fall in the fountain near the Ferry Building without a change of clothes on hand. 

So, here, with admission of hypocrisy, is my own unsolicited advice. Next time you see an adult with one child or a few and you're tempted to come from your own place of love -- stop. Instead, repeat this: "Is there anything you need?"

With a Perspective, this is Anat Shenker-Osorio.

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