I have noticed in parents (especially new parents) that there is this deep resentment of others that says “Don’t tell me how to treat my baby.” I have seen that and since I know next to nothing about how to treat a baby I thought I was prepared to be different. But as soon as someone came in and said, “Unwrap him I want to see his legs” I was ready to kick everyone out of the room because they didn’t know how to treat my son. I actually hovered around his grandmother making sure she knew how to hold him and she has 4 children of her own and works in a daycare. I mean the woman knows how to hold a baby.
I don’t know exactly where this comes from. There is a deep protectiveness that is there of course, but I think for me some of it comes from my lack of knowledge. Every little thing that the nurse tells me to do I hold onto like it was gospel and preach it to everyone who comes in. (“He’s not cold, he is just new and he shakes”) I also have found a few small things that work for me, and think that I know what I am doing. But deep down I think part of it comes because I am afraid. I am afraid that I don’t really know what I am doing, and I am afraid that I will be found out so even good advice gets treated with hostility. It goes something like this.
Person: I don’t know if you should hold his head under your armpit like that
Me: I think it will be OK (in a please back off this subject you know nothing sort of voice)
Person: No really the hairs are tickling his nose and his clean smelling head is starting to smell like Brute
Me: Don’t tell me how to raise my baby!
There is fear because I don’t have all of the right answers and I don’t want anyone to find out how terrified I really am.
Two Spiritual Points:
1. God has the answers so he isn’t afraid of questions. “God are you sure that is the best way to be doing this?” And he answers with a yes, but not with anger because when you are confident you welcome questions instead of running from them.
2. It is important to remember this scared parent syndrome when dealing with people who are in charge of ministries in your church. Especially if said ministry isn’t doing well or the minister or volunteer has been coming under attack. It is a good chance that they have 2 things working in their head. a) Massive protectiveness and b) fear. So be ready for them to respond in kind. Even advice offered the right way won’t always be heard. So try to be sensitive.
In my last church I subbed for a Sunday School teacher who “taught” class like it was a sermon. He was well prepared with pages of notes, but the only thing that the class members did was listen and read the Bible verses. When I subbed I didn’t do anything special, but I did follow the lesson plan that was in the SS material. The lesson plan had something for each learning type so I used one of each and taught he lesson.
After I was finished I talked to the teacher and being a young punk kid I said, “You know what the class really liked those activities. It wasn’t all that hard, either; I just followed what was in the book.” I thought I was offering helpful advice in a kindly manner. What I didn’t know what that same teacher had heard people say that they liked the class and he felt both protective of the way he did things and scared that he wasn’t good enough. Needless to say his response wasn’t a good one. He later said that I was trying to “steal” his class.
Now I am a little older, but not much wiser. It is hard to speak to someone when they are under the new parent syndrome, so be sure to speak in love and don’t be surprised if they initially respond badly. Many times once their gut reaction fades they will feel better about what you have said.
(Oh and I know how to raise my baby so do it my way or back off!)