Everyone Was Once a Child
I got some fantastic parenting advice from a woman who called herself not-a-parent before she delivered it. She was sitting on a panel, and I asked a question about a problem we had encountered with one of the kids.
The first panelist gave some advice, and it was sound advice, but we had already tried that route and it hadn’t worked. Even when I told her that it hadn’t worked, she continued to emphasize the same thoughts. The second panelist repeated the words of the first panelist, giving the exact same advice.
But the third panelist looked at me thoughtfully and said, “you know, I’m not a parent, but…” and then she launched into the most helpful take on the situation that I’ve heard. A combination of tough-love and realism coupled with supportive and nurturing warmth. Her words just clicked with me. She got it.
Afterwards, we spoke for a bit so I could thank her for the advice and also point out that one doesn’t need to be a parent to know how to parent or to give other people advice on getting out of sticky parenting situations.
Because here’s the thing: there are plenty of places in life where being an outsider to the situation means that we probably can’t give very good advice. For instance, she cannot give advice on what it is like to navigate the world as an African-American woman because she’s not — and never was — an African-American woman. She can’t speak to what it’s like to be an Asian man, or what it’s like to be deaf.
But everyone was once a child (unless you’re still a child whereas this post will be applicable to you in a few years). And everyone knows what resonated with them when they were a child; which words permeated their goldfish brain and which ones bounced off the surface. Every person can sit with the situation for a moment and consider what they would have wanted to hear from an adult when they were a child.
If she were giving me advice on how I feel as a parent, that may be a different story. Then her life situation would matter a bit more; it is hard to give advice on something you haven’t experienced yourself. But she wasn’t. She was giving kid advice. And since she was once a kid, she was completely qualified to give kid advice. Obviously — since it was kickass kid advice.
I’ve been very cognizant lately of times when I negate my own expertise in order to couch every word in some polite version of “but I could be wrong!” Well, yes, all of us, at any point, could be wrong. But we’re usually not. We’re usually spot-on when we’re speaking from a place of knowledge. And when we’re not right, there will be plenty of time to apologize and correct ourselves. But… you know… no need to do that beforehand.
So, yeah, I take parenting advice from anyone who was once a kid. They’re experts based on experience.