Want to instantly drop five points in the eyes of your children or their spouses/partners/co-parents? Just use this simple phrase for immediate results.
They may not stop asking you to babysit or attend family functions, but they will do it with gritted teeth. Nothing like a disparaging comparison between the imperfect world of competing demands that parents struggle through every day, and the all-sunshine-all-the-time vision that you remember so well. Oh, and did I mention the wise and immutable rules that governed your life as a young person?
Here are a few corollaries for you to excise if In my day is not your cup of tea. When I was growing up, in my family, when I was young, offer the same easy deification of a dead time.
Maybe you had a good upbringing, maybe not. But it happened at a very specific time, in a very specific environment. Use comparisons sparingly. In my day, we never ever laid it on too thick.
It starts as advice to the mother-of-the-groom: wear beige and keep your mouth shut.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you have a tendency to spew unsolicited opinions and pronouncements, and if beige is your color. Lesson one: this is not your wedding.
It continues as a grandmotherly truth universally acknowledged: Do not give guidance of any kind. Butt out. Say nothing. Hold your tongue. Lesson two: this is not your baby; not your family.
But could anything so uni-dimensional tell the whole story?
Let’s assume that, after all these years, you have some modicum of self knowledge, an ability to read a situation, modulate your behavior. You might just notice that, although this is not your nuclear family, it is your extended family. And the poor beleaguered new parents (and hopefully they become somewhat less-beleagured as time goes on) are wolfing down mommy blogs, parenting books, and parenting get-togethers both in person and online. They are looking for advice. They are aching to commiserate. They are hungry for ideas, inspiration….on subjects which you know only too well.
If you are a controlling person who does not get along with your children, go back to the part of this column that talks about wearing beige and saying nothing. Stop there. But if you have some distance, if you have some control of your actions, remember that you have the perspective and the memory that is not available to parents who are in the thick of it.
Luckily you are available to them. But only in limited doses. Just because you can open your mouth does not mean that you should not shut it as well.