Open Season on Commentary on Your Baby

What’s the weirdest thing anybody’s ever tried to tell you about your baby? That is, what kind of unsolicited advice have you received that’s made you say, “Huh. Thank you for telling me this. Now I know to hide behind the nearest bush when I see you coming.”

I am 5 days into parenthood. But I’m lucky, because he is 3 months old (we adopted our beautiful bebe) and is rather experienced at being a baby, so is a very good (and patient) educator to his inexperienced parents.

One of the worst things I remember people saying to me, at my joyous announcement that I was to meet my baby in the coming days, was: “You really shouldn’t have adopted. You have no idea what you get with adopted children.” This from a man who then went on to tell my partner the same thing. Nay, shout it at him across the parking lot. I thought about setting him on fire, but the thought of my new baby distracted me.

My god.

adviceBecause I am only 5 days in, I have not experienced the wealth of rubbish information out there from people who are gracious enough to give it to me without asking. Mostly, I LIKE advice. You know, from my Ma, from kindly uncles, from friends who had babies and are trying to save me some stress. I especially need advice from my parents & in-laws & use it at every opportunity. But people I know have had strangers telling them all sorts of weird things. Like saying they stop bouncing their babies in their carriers while at the store checkout, to stop spoiling their kids by picking them up when they cry, sneaking sugar to them when their parents aren’t looking, to not buy pink socks for their boys or ask why they’re wearing red if they’re girls (has the world gone mad? It’s a fucking COLOUR. It won’t burn their skin off. Also, RED? Has red been taken hostage by the gender police too?).

It’s all rather similar to the kind of ridiculous advice I got from people when I told them I would probably never have children (things changed in the last year). “But you’ll die SAD AND ALONE” someone even told me. That’s beautiful, that is. Just beautiful. My usual response to these things are a short and sweet ” Thanks, buddy. Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” but now that there’s a baby bouncing happily on my chest, I can’t really swear over his head, because he might think I’m talking to him and that will never do.

Parenting is crazy. Backseat parenting is even weirder.

Now, I’ve also got some wonderful advice, some great encouragement, and made a bunch of new friends as a result of jumping onto the parent train. So it’s hardly like people are all shouting us down. It comes from parents and non-parents alike. EVERYBODY has a shitload to say. But so far, it’s mostly been directed at my friends, whose babies are old and wise now. However, the advice or rude questions are starting to trickle in with our family.

Is this just a Cape Town thing? Do people outside of this city all come with a filter that seems to be entirely absent in Capetonians? I recall my partner’s second trip to Cape Town, and the clerk at the post office telling him he looked really fat in his passport picture. I laughed my arse off (mostly because he’s so vain that very little could knock his self-esteem), but I do think there’s something fishy going on here in this town. God, am I one of them? Do I lack a filter and don’t even know it?


Back to this baby of ours. The most common question I was asked, when I would tell people about the impending arrival of my baby, was: “Is it a… er… bl… well, colour…, um… what is it?”

“It’s a baby,” I would answer.

Unsatisfied, they would jump to, “OK, is it a boy or a girl?” (there had to be some satisfaction)

I let this one go, because I can be a pain in the arse sometimes. “A boy.”

But other people were less likely to trip over their words and just came out and asked, “Is it a BLACK child? Is it a COLOURED child?” I told them I didn’t know. It was the truth. And then I reminded them that I didn’t care. Which was also the truth.

I don’t blame the people, of course, for being curious. This is South Africa, where ethnicity still means everything. But I do blame them for not shutting the fuck up about it. Again, this wasn’t everybody. Most people just asked how old the baby was, what I was going to name him/her, how I was feeling about my impending parenthood. But I noticed that the people who cared the most about the ethnicity were not friends or family, but randos who found their way into my conversation or who spotted me buying baby things and asked when I was due (thanks guys, that was a food baby. The real baby is somewhere else right now, having never seen the inside of my apparently swollen belly).

I’m going to go now and cuddle the baby. He’s really good at cuddles and my mom even bought him a shirt that says he gives the best cuddles. It’s so fucking true. She’s a psychic, my mom. And I know there are countless blogs out there asking people to please stop with the random comments on other people’s babies (unless you see them hurting their kids, don’t tell them what you think of their children or the way they’re raising them), but I’d like to encourage people to stop here too. Like I said, I love advice, so I ask for it constantly. But that’s the thing, man. I ask for it. So if I haven’t asked, you can shove it.

smoking baby
You can probably tell this baby to stop smoking.

Again, if I’ve taken him into the smoking section of a pub where they’re playing darts over his wee head & spilling brandy & cokes all over him; feel free to tell me to get the hell out of there. But if I’ve put pink socks on his feet or have a different way of changing his diaper, you can leave it at home.

Mmmm, cuddles.


  1. I was in a supermarket in Kenilworth Centre once when my eldest was about 4. He was running in circles around me. So close to me, in fact, that his hand was in constant contact with me; when one woman looked at us with disgust and yelled at me: “Can’t you control your child?!” to which I said calmly: ” No. He’s not a robot.”

    I’m always fascinated by this idea that children should be “controlled”. Also that complete strangers seem to think that they have the right to publicly (or otherwise) judge my (or anyone else’s) parenting style.

    1. That’s crazy. People are so strange! I also recently read (on the Kenilworth forum as well, so perhaps Kenilworth is full of oddballs) that a woman wanted to call the police because there was a baby crying too much. When people asked if it was because she was worried about the baby’s safety, she sort of said that she was mostly just tired of the crying and (in her words) the baby was probably ‘spoiled’. Uh-huh.

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