My friend Gwen was taking a stroll, her sleeping 1-year-old daughter Lola pressed to her chest in a baby sling. It was a lovely day, the nicest so far in a too-late spring, and Gwen was thrilled to be out of the house. A Friendly Stranger rolled up alongside her on his bicycle, cooing over Lola before asking, "How old is she?"
When Gwen answered, Friendly Stranger asked if he could "say something." He was already "saying something," so the phrase was just a euphemism for his real intention. Like a preacher at a revival, he lectured Gwen.
"Your problem is that your daughter is facing the wrong way. She has to face out at this age."
Until that moment, Gwen had been unaware that she had any "problem" or that this wasn't a casual chat. But she played it cool.
"Lola likes to sleep this way."
The cyclist's voice rose. "But she's too OLD! You CAN'T let her do that any more!"
Gwen's a writer and a lawyer -- she could have verbally sliced up the Less-Friendly Stranger, but instead she tried to de-escalate the situation.
"I'm aware there are a lot of opinions on this, but I'm comfortable that she'll be fine."
"You're going to DEFORM her! Her neck will be TWISTED!"
Gwen's jaw tightened. "OK. You've shared your opinion. Move along."
The decidedly Un-Friendly Stranger did roll off, but not before shouting: "This is ABUSE! They should TAKE THAT CHILD AWAY FROM YOU." And thus ended Gwen's lovely morning.
Is there anything your average parent wants less than unsolicited advice...
Causes David Valdes Greenwood Supports
The Theater Offensive. Oxfam America. Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Heifer Project.