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Recently, we attended a family event with my side of the family. This was a joyous occasion as one of my siblings and her husband are having their first baby. We all had a quite a pleasant time playing games and talking with people we don’t see very often. Many of those people hadn’t seen Baby in person yet, or since around the time he was born. The important thing to remember is that many of these people, family mind you, rarely see Baby growing, minus the few pictures I may send via text occasionally.
Although we were all greeted warmly and everyone wanted a piece of Baby, there was quite a bit of “my is he big” and “how much does he weigh?” going on. We know full well that we have a 20lb. plus 4.5month old. We also know full well that he is healthy. We also know that weight gain for breastfed babies is greater in the first 6 months or so as normal. We know that breastfeeding is not linked to later obesity or weight-related issues. We nurse him on demand. All of these things we know are based on facts and research. In other words, Baby is A-OK, Fine, Healthy!
We’re pretty numb to hearing that our child is big, mostly because we know this to be true, yet we also know it’s just a comment. One that needs no discussion. We have been understood by others that ask if he’s breastfed, because it is normal for him to be kinda big right now. Since we are pretty numb to comments on his weight, we don’t pay them much mind. BUT, when comments get judgmental or tell us how we’re raising our child, that’s when our ears perk up and we get
upsetoffended!! See, it’s not only that the comment was made, but it’s how it was made. It’s not only how it was made, but it’s that it was made, period. I don’t go around saying anything about anyone else’s parenting choices, especially not my family’s. I know that is not the way to go. I know that going down that path in my family is a complete waste of time and energy. How do I know this? I know it because I’ve long been questioned about the choices I make with my life. When I answer those questions with information, I am more often than not met with the classic “I’m listening, but I don’t really care” attitude, or simply the topic is ignored.
So, what is it that upset me during this shin-dig? What upset me is that while as someone was exiting the party, they said quite pointedly and bluntly,
“He’s too big. Stop letting him eat so much.”
Here is the problem with those two statements, said as bluntly as they were said. First, at no point in time had this person asked or conversed with me about Baby’s weight. At no point in time had this person discussed with me his eating habits or the manner in which he does eat. Additionally, this person not once even asked about his health. This is the same person, mind you, who when they inquired about whether he got his shots also went on to say I “had to homeschool because he can’t go to school”. Despite the fact this isn’t true and despite the fact that when this was said, I politely stated that he could if we wanted, we just needed to “have a paper” (translate – waiver). Either way, no further conversation has taken place regarding Baby with this person. Mind you, when this person said that I needn’t let him eat so much, they were on their way out the door and gave the distinct impression that any comments or conversation from me regarding this situation weren’t going to be heard.
Why is this frustrating? Especially why is this frustrating when I know my experiences with my family? Well, it’s frustrating namely because it’s uncalled for. It’s frustrating because I didn’t ask your opinion about my child’s weight. Even more importantly though, it’s frustrating because it’s misinformed. The comment isn’t simply misinformed by not having had any conversation with me about Baby’s weight gain, eating habits, etc. It’s an indication of the perpetuation of misinformation regarding pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. See, this perpetuation of misinformation has been going on for so many years, that many aren’t even aware that it’s happening. What do you mean, you ask. I mean that unfortunately in our society, we are
told misinformed regarding what is healthy. Did you know that children who are breastfed exclusively gain weight fairly rapidly in the first few months of life and then taper off a bit? Did you know that at most pediatrician’s offices the growth chart used is essentially created by pharmaceutical companies, who also supply the samples, coupons, and “new baby” kits to families? Did you know that a child who is breastfed suffers from far fewer medical visits due to illnesses? Did you also know that if your child is exclusively breastfed, they receive absolutely everything they need to sustain their life through breast milk?
See, this is the type of information that isn’t readily available to people, let alone women even prior to pregnancy. This is also the type of information that is quickly clouded by messages that we receive every day regarding children’s health and well-being. This lack of information is so widespread that it can be quite difficult to sort through what is relevant and what is not. This lack of information is so widespread that any information to the contrary is immediately regarded as false or shadows of doubt are cast upon it. This lack of information is so widespread that there are campaigns targeting the fact that misinformation is present, while also attempting to provide a broader bit of information.
Is this a post railing on my family and highlighting the difficulty I have in those relationships? Quite simply, no. This is a post about judgmental-ism when it comes to parenting. It is a post about how more likely than not, when people start judging others, there is breakdown in communication and thus relationships. When people judge others, those that are being judged aren’t being shown respect – respect for their decisions, respect for their choices, respect for having autonomy over their own lives. That is what this post is about. Make no mistake, it is not a jab at my family and the difficulty I have with those relationships. When we judge others and the choices they make, we are essentially saying that they are “bad (fill in the blank)”. When we judge others we are also saying to them that we don’t respect them as people and that we don’t think they can or do make informed decisions which are right for them at that moment in time or their current situation. Judging others is counter-productive. Wouldn’t it be better to just have a conversation? Wouldn’t it be better to just ask a question, with the desire to hear the answers and maybe, just maybe at least gain an understanding of the choices that another makes, or even learn something new? Wouldn’t it be better to start from a place of inquiry instead of judgement?