Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have triplet boys, preschool age. We’re blessed, but one thing has become bothersome.
We usually dress them similarly. It makes things easier because we can buy three outfits at a time, they aren’t fighting over who gets to wear a certain shirt, and we can easily pick them out when they’re playing in the park. God forbid if something were to happen to one, we could tell whoever is looking for him that he looks just like these other two, perhaps just in another color or pattern.
However, we often have well-meaning people, from strangers to close friends and family, tell us that the boys will resent us for doing this in the future. We often hear that we’re stifling their imaginations and individuality by putting them in matching outfits.
When my husband and I were little, we were subjected to coordinating outfits with our siblings and suffered no lasting damage. We know as they grow they’ll start to push back.
In the meantime, is there a polite way to tell people to back off? Or to help us let this go?
Matching: Another advantage you didn’t mention: When I was dressing twins, there was always the nagging question, who gets the warmer sweater/softer jeans/cuter shirt? It always felt weirdly like picking a favorite.
But even that stuff is several orders of magnitude easier than shaking off the steady rain of bystander opinions.
I wish I had a great solution for you, but the only surefire cure I’ve found for unsolicited remarks on one’s parenting is for the kids to grow up. People just can’t or won’t help themselves, and in my experience, at least, their resistance seems to get weaker the more children you have in tow. Multiples? Red capes to the meddling bull.
So prepare a brief, perfectly civil response that you can have at the ready at all times. “Thanks for your concern” is a good one. Or, “I’ll keep that in mind.” And if someone’s rude or oblivious enough to follow up: “We’ve got this.”
This is ideal for strangers and other drive-by butters-in. When you hear from people you care about enough to attempt some retraining, you can say instead: “I know you mean well, but managing kids in triplicate means advice in triplicate, too, and what’s most helpful is for people to let us do our thing.”
And what a thing it is — good for you guys and good luck.
Re: Triplets: For all I know, I got this from a column or chat of yours years ago, but I’m a big fan of, “Thank you, but I am not in the market for parenting advice right now.”
Anonymous: For all I know, you did get it from me, but I don’t recall saying it.
I like it either way, thanks, in part because of its foundation in the fact that no parent on Earth is in the market for unsolicited parenting advice right now or ever. Nothing like a universal truth mixed in with your civil deflections.
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