This article, entitled Parenting 101: Mind your own business (and then blog about it later) comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear on chicagonow.com.
Do you typically mind your own business? When you are presented with an opportunity to give unsolicited advice or information about raising kids to other parents, do you resist? Something we should all learn in Parenting 101 is to mind our own business. Is it hard for you?
If it’s hard for you to resist, you are not alone. Parenting brings out the opinionated know-it-all in everyone. But what you think and know is not always of interest to others, even if what you think and know is good and right and could be of tremendous assistance to someone.
Recently, at the school book fair, I was dying to shoot off my mouth at a guy who was clearly a loving dad with good intentions armed with bad information. This is what happened.
Kid: Look! (Hands his dad a Lego sticker book)
Dad: NO! I’ll get you a book to read, not a book to play with.
Kid: This has a lot to read, but it has stickers too.
Dad: It’s a toy. Get a real book with words. No picture books.
Kid: I hate those kinds of books. I hate reading.
Dad: No you don’t. You just aren’t good at it and you won’t get good if you don’t practice.
Kid: I can’t do it. I’m a bad reader.
Dad: Well, you aren’t going to get good by reading a sticker book. Get a real book.
Kid: This is a real book.
Dad: You pick out a real book or you get no book. I’m not wasting my money.
Kid: (starts sobbing)
I wanted to tell the dad that kids who struggle with reading tend to try harder and often do better with books that interest them.
I wanted to tell him that kids who don’t enjoy reading in general, often enjoy reading books about things they do enjoy and will read them again and again, which is good practice.
I wanted to tell him that anything that can get his kid reading words and using their imagination is a good investment.
But I didn’t. I knew that I needed to mind my own business. It was killing me. I just stood there feeling sad. I was sad for the kid, sad for the dad and sad that this wonderful opportunity for them had passed. I imagined how cool it would be for them to sit down together with the book, sounding out the names of the Lego characters and flipping through the pages and putting the stickers of the characters next to the words that spelled out the character names.
Mind your own business, Nikki!
Then, my daughter came up to me with two books.
Cate: Look! One chapter book and one fun book!
Me: Wow, this fun quiz book has lots of interesting words and ideas!
Cate: I KNOW!
Me: Holy crap! Look at all these quizzes!
Cate: I KNOW. Hey, what’s an “Island Cabana?”
Me: It’s a little, covered hut-like thing people use at the beach or the pool for shade.
Cate: One of the questions asks if I’d rather stay in an Island cabana, a European castle, a safari tent or a ski lodge.
Cate: THE ISLAND CABANA!
Me: Oh sister, me too, but I wouldn’t say no to the European castle either.
Cate: I’d say no to the safari tent. Bugs and wild animals? No thank you.
Me: I hear that.
The man and his son were standing right next to us while this conversation took place. It's important to state that this IS how my daughter and I speak with each other, so the conversation certainly wasn't tailored to school this guy. They were listening too. I know this because I saw them looking at us while we were talking. I kept thinking, please let this guy NOT be minding his own business, please let him hear and understand that going home with a chapter book his kid isn’t interested in, can’t or doesn’t want to read, isn’t going to help his kid read better or learn to love reading, but scooping up that Lego sticker book would.
Please, please, please, please let him be making the connection. The guy’s daughter came running up with the same quiz book Cate and I were purchasing.
Girl kid: Look!
Cate: Hey, I’m getting that book too!
Me: I'm a sucker for books. Anything that gets her to read, you know?
We smiled at each other and Cate and I walked away. It was a full house at the book fair, because it was also Family Reading Night. I didn’t see if the man let his kids buy anything other than “real” books. I hope he did, but because I was minding my own business, I didn’t follow him around to see.
This is when it’s hard, right? When you know that the information or advice you might have could and would benefit a child, a parent or both, yet they didn’t ask for your two cents. Sure, my two cents could and would have benefited this family, but it wasn’t my business.
The thing is, we parents do learn from watching each other, so really, the best way to share our passion for nurturing our children’s minds, bodies and spirits is to walk the walk and do our own thing, hoping that maybe we are doing something that might help and inspire another. I’ve learned a whole bunch of what to do and what not to do just by watching other parents.
I didn’t judge the man, but I can’t say that I didn’t have an opinion about it, and whether that opinion is right or wrong, matters not. I feel how I feel and think what I think, just as he does the same. Obviously, this man wanted his son to improve his reading skills. If I had to guess, I’d say that he was just an ill-informed parent, not at all aware of the information and strategies available for parents who have children who struggle with reading or attention.
All I had for that man last night was a friendly smile, but I really, really, REALLY understood where he was coming from. It wasn’t long ago that I thought the same way! If his son continues to struggle with reading, I’m hoping that an educational professional will offer up some information and advice to this guy. That’s how I learned this stuff; an experienced teacher told me! My kid was her business and the information and advice she shared with me opened my eyes.
I minded my own business that night, but of course, I’m blogging about it today. I suppose this isn’t technically considered minding my own business, but nobody has to read this blog if they don’t want to, right?
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