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Backseat Parenting

Twin of the Day – Penny: As new parents, my wife and I are already accustomed to receiving unsolicited advice from complete strangers. My wife even experienced this phenomenon while she was pregnant with our twin girls. At seven months, she had a particularly awkward encounter with a Starbucks barista:

“Hi, I’d like a grande iced coffee with soy milk.”

“Decaf, right?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“I’ve just never seen a pregnant woman get coffee.”

It’s only gotten worse since the girls were born. We get unsolicited advice on a daily basis. Complete strangers routinely ask my wife if she is nursing; to which, the only acceptable answer is YES. Depending on the weather, someone is likely to inform us that the girls are either over or underdressed — sometimes both in the same walk. As parents, hearing these suggestions are like nails on a chalkboard. On the other hand, Penelope doesn’t understand our frustrations, and welcomes any and all opinions.

“Daddy, what’s the problem? — They’re just trying to help.”

“I understand, sweetie. But the cumulative effect is exhausting. And most of the time it’s either utter nonsense or something we already know.

“Sure. — But how much energy does it take to simply say, “Thank you”?

“Well, how much restraint does it take for people to simply mind their own f***ing business?”

“So, daddy, it’s never appropriate for people to intervene or express their opinion?”

“If it’s a matter of opinion — NEVER. But if I somehow left you in the car on a hot summer day… I certainly hope someone would save you.

“Of course they would, daddy. — It’s the LAW!

“Huh?

“If you ever see a person who has suffered grave physical harm, or who is exposed to danger, you have a duty to help that person. — It’s known as the DUTY TO RESCUE. 

What the f**k are you talking about, sweetie?

“Daddy, you’re a lawyer. I can’t believe you don’t know this. — If you left me in the car on a hot summer day, and a stranger walked by… he would be required to provide assistance. Otherwise, he could go to jail!

“I’m sorry, sweetie. That’s bullshit. — Unless you live in Minnesota or Vermont, there’s no duty to rescue in this country.

“Even teeny tiny babies, like me?”

“Afraid so, sweetie.”

“So, if someone saw me roasting in a car, they could just keep walking?”

“YEP. This is America, sweetie! — We got places to go and shit to do.”

“That’s bananas, daddy.”

“Well, sweetie. It goes back to the founding of our country. — You see…”

“Ugh! Daddy, please, not another history lesson.”

“I’ll keep it brief, sweetie. — You see, America is a nation founded on individualism. The Founders believed that liberty was essential to human progress, and that we all have inherent rights to make decisions about ourselves and our property.”

“Geez, let’s cut to the chase daddy. — America is a country of selfish bastards.”

“Really? Then why do most people still come to the aid of those in peril?”

“Well, ‘most doesn’t cut it for me, daddy. According to that logic, we don’t need laws against murder. ‘Most’ people wouldn’t murder if it was legal.

“Hmmmm. That’s a debate for another day, sweetie. Either way, I just don’t think we should criminalize cowardice. — Besides, if the law required everyone to be courageous, how would we distinguish true heroes from those compelled by law?”

“Oy vey. — So, people aren’t even morally compelled. They just want to get their ugly mug on the evening news.”

“That’s fine by me, sweetie — I’m way more annoyed by the know-it-alls who feel the need to butt in when it’s not a matter of life and death.”

“Pfft! I think it comes down to this, daddy. — Almost everything is a matter of life and death for babies. We’re so vulnerable. I could die if you forget to secure my car seat, or even if you place me in the wrong sleeping position. — There’s a lot of gray area.”

“I’ll concede that, sweetie. But, rest assured… your mom and I know what we’re doing.”

“YUCK! Overconfidence is not an attractive quality, daddy. — Remember when you took me and Clemmy to the Honkey Tonk Tavern to watch college football?

“You mean when our Buckeyes thumped Oklahoma!? ”

“I have no idea, daddy. I slept through most of the game. — But if you recall, it was pretty loud in that bar.”

“Well, it was loud in the bar area… but we were in the restaurant section.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to tell you this… but when you went to the bathroom at halftime, I overheard some guy say that it was too loud for babies.”

“Really?! — Man oh man. I’m glad he didn’t say it to my face. F**k that guy!”

“Well, I’ve been thinking, daddy. Maybe it was too loud.”

“But you slept through most of the game.”

“Actually, daddy. — I did some research on the internet.”

“Oh shit.”

“According to scientists, the mechanism that protects our hearing “shuts off” at night. That means if you’re exposed to loud noises while you sleep, your hearing is more likely to be damaged— even when exposed to the same noise level as during the day.”

“Ok. But we still don’t know if the bar itself was too loud.”

“So, despite what I found on the internet, you still would’ve been angry at that guy?”

“You’re damn skippy!”

So, daddy, let me get this straight. If I’m ever drowning, or otherwise in grave danger, you want people to jump in and rescue me.— But if it involves something minor like potential hearing damage, those same people should mind their own f***ing business!?”

“Yes, I love you very much, and I want you to have the best life possible… BUT I also want to be free to be an imperfect parent, and to raise imperfect children.”

“What? I didn’t quite catch that, daddy. Can you speak a little louder?”

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