Raise your hand if you’ve ever received unsolicited advice or been the one to give it to someone else.
While out shopping with her baby, Kelly Dirkes was confronted by a stranger who decided to comment on Dirkes’ parenting skills.
The woman at the store lectured Kelly on how her daughter would never be independent if she kept “spoiling” her. While some parents may have told this stranger to mind her own business, Dirkes took another route.
She wrote an open letter to the woman on Facebook titled, “Dear Woman in Target,” and here are a few excerpts:
I’ve heard it before, you know. That I “spoil that baby”. You were convinced that she’d never learn to be “independent”. I smiled at you, kissed her head, and continued my shopping.
If you only knew what I know…
If you only knew what her face looked like the moment her orphanage caregiver handed her to me to cradle for the very first time—fleeting moments of serenity commingled with sheer terror. No one had ever held her that way before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do.
Dirkes goes on to describes how her baby wouldn’t cry after waking up because she was used to no one responding. Before coming to Dirkes’ family she would also rock herself and bang her head on her crib rails for “sensory input and comfort.”
The letter continues to let the woman at Target know that Grace is indeed independent.
If you only knew that that baby in the carrier is heartbreakingly “independent” –and how we will spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to override the part of her brain that screams “trauma” and “not safe.”
It is the end of the letter that really speaks to the spoiling comment.
“Spoiling that baby” is the most important job I will ever have, and it is a privilege. I will carry her for a little while longer–or as long as she’ll let me–because she is learning that she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved.
As Dirkes said, “If you only knew.” The next time we are tempted to judge another’s style of parenting or approach to a situation, maybe we can think of Dirkes’ letter and refrain. We never know what someone else is going through and what our words will mean to them.
[h/t Little Things]