Sometimes the best response for gabbers eager to give parenting advice is: Back off!
Ronda Kaysen: When Gretchen spewed unwanted parenting advice, I felt for the hysterical and slightly unhinged Lynne of the Real Housewives of Orange County. Lynne might be coming unglued, but there's nothing more irritating than someone butting in and offering unwanted advice, especially if the advice-giver has no personal experience with the topic.
Over a roundtable smackdown, Gretchen told Lynne, "Just because you pop a child out between your legs doesn't mean that gives you the God-given right to know how to parent." Touche, Gretchen, but just because you have a mouth, it doesn't give you the God-given right to use it whenever you feel like it.
I'd like to give well-meaning Gretchen a bit of advice of my own: Advice is a tricky thing and when it comes from someone who doesn't have the credibility to be doling it out, all it does is make someone like Lynne completely break down, which is what she promptly did.
"Gretchen, you don't understand," she wailed while her mascara began its swift descent down her cheekbones. "You don't know until you have teenagers what it's going to be like. I swear to God. Be afraid because it's scary as sh*t. I swear to God it is not an easy thing to deal with. It is horrible."
If I could have jumped into the television and saved Lynne from herself in that moment, I would have. Her reaction was all wrong. She took the high road and pulled the on-screen meltdown card when she should have read Gretchen the riot act.
I, personally, would have turned the tables on Gretchen and grilled her on why she felt that she had the wisdom to tell someone else how to raise teenagers when she herself had no experience with the topic.
I like to think of myself as someone slightly more stable than our friend Lynne here. But when someone, especially someone who doesn't know what she's talking about, starts telling me how to raise my kids, I break out in hives.
Lynne had a couple of good options at her disposal, none of which she chose to use. Cindy Post Senning, a parenting expert at the Emily Post Institute, once offered me some (very much wanted) advice on how to, well, not take advice.
Option One: Lynne could have tried changing the subject. So when Gretchen said, "Just because you pop a child out between your legs" blah blah blah, Lynne could have responded, "Interesting point, Gretch. Which reminds me, I need a new bikini wax, do you still like the lady you use?"
Her second option, according to Senning, would have been to be gracious, but firm. Her response would have been more along the lines of, "Yes, parenting is a tricky thing, Gretchen, but we're doing what works best for our family." That response, of course, wouldn't have gone over well with the reality TV set, so maybe not the best option for Lynne.
We all know how hard it is in the moment to heed the advice of the Emily Post Institute and not make a bad situation worse. But I must say that the next time someone offers me unwanted advice, I hope that I don't channel my inner Lynne and come completely undone in public.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, The New York Observer, Babble.com and AM New York. She lives in New Jersey with her family. Follow her on Twitter.|