Whether it’s at a playgroup, a sandbox, or in the midst of a spirited Mommy and Me yoga session, the assumption is that there is a universal vernacular that unites parents.
However, while parents may share a root tongue, there are an infinite number of distinct and often discordant dialects. This is why a seemingly innocent conversation at a preschool bake sale can turn as charged as diplomatic talks with North Korea. I’ve learned the only way to smoothly navigate this complex, mysterious world of parenting is to avoid certain subjects.
If you, too, prefer your baby Zumba classes without thinly veiled judgment or outright shouting matches, simply follow these 10 commandments of parenting topics to avoid completely.
1. Breastfeeding vs. Formula
This personal choice can easily turn into one of the most contentious parenting debates, with “breast is best” crusaders on one side and formula apologists on the other. If someone asks you what you feed your infant, pretend to recognize someone on the other side of the room and walk away. Or, if you really want to throw them, smile and reply confidently, “Mountain Dew.”
If you say you spank, odds are the parent next to you will think you a monstrous Neanderthal. If you say you don’t spank, the reverse will likely occur, and the person will assume you are a weak-willed ninny. If you can’t dodge the question, answer that you don’t believe in spanking, but you do believe in sending wayward toddlers to military school.
Whether you co-sleep or don’t, at some point a parent who is fanatical about one side of the debate will try to draw you in with polite, innocent questions. Do not fall for it. It’s a trap. Unless you want to hear about “family beds” or “safe sleep practices” ad nauseam, feign an emergency diaper situation and flee.
4. Cry-it-out Sleep Training
For some parents, cry-it-out sleep training is a necessary step toward independence. For others, it is one degree away from child abuse. Unless you want to wade into those shark-infested waters, mumble inaudibly whenever anyone asks you how you get your kid to sleep. Or look at them and laugh hysterically if the topic comes up. No one likes to argue with crazy.
Whether you go with private, public or home school, some guy at the playground will want to argue, vociferously, about why your decision is wrong. Per him, either the government or the church wants to brainwash your kids or homeschooled kids are missing out on all that brainwashed fun. There’s no way to win, so deflect by bringing up the lost art of cursive.
6. Screen Time
It’s amazing how quickly an offhanded comment about Peppa Pig at an indoor play gym can turn into a 30-minutelecture on the warping influences of modern technology. In all likelihood, the person giving the lecture has an emergency tablet in their diaper bag for meltdown emergencies and lets their kids binge Netflix in secret. You could point out the hypocrisy or just avoid the discussion.
7. Birth Practices
There are women who are evangelical about un-medicated births, and there are women who ask for an epidural the second they see a positive pregnancy test. Most women fall somewhere in between. What should unite all mothers is an unspoken agreement that what happens to our uteruses during childbirth should really not be a topic of public debate.
It’s really not a political statement or grand philosophical argument for attachment parenting. It’s a baby in a sling. You have to put babies somewhere, and some people choose to wear them. You could discuss it, but it’s about as useful as discussing why humans wear socks.
This one is awkward for everyone involved, particularly the fathers. Also, your kid would probably prefer you not discuss his nether regions over the roulette table at casino night.
10. Child Leashes
There are two types of parents out there. There are the ones who think child leashes are humiliating and restrictive. And there are the parents who have taken an overstimulated toddler to a crowded theme park. Until the former group experiences the terror of watching a sugar-crazed 2-year-old try to body slam Mickey Mouse into a fountain at the Magic Kingdom, there’s really no point in discussing the subject.