I need your advice on something. That something? Advice. So, yes. I need your advice on advice.
I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed this, but I try not to give advice on my blog. I do not publish promising posts telling you how to streamline your soul, or declutter your existential closet, or be a perfect parent. I do not do this because I am not equipped. I am one person. One flawed individual who is fumbling and stumbling her way through life. Just like you are. (Sorry, but you are.)
So, instead of dispensing advice, I tell stories here. And ask questions. And offer tiny pieces of me.
But the other night I broke my own unwritten-and-now-written rule about not giving advice. Husband and I went out for dinner at Fulton on the Upper East (delicious) with one of my best friends and her husband. This was a real treat because my friend has an eight-month-old and does not get a sitter very often. Anyway, we went out. We ate delicious food. We laughed a ton. About life and love and little babies. I made it through most of the meal. We were eating these fabulous donuts (yum) and talking about sleep patterns. My friend told me that her little girl sleeps through the night every night. We all know this is major. I congratulated her. And then I asked if she rocks her baby to sleep. She told me she does.
This is when I looked at her and said something I perhaps shouldn’t have. “Stop doing that. Take this week and teach her to fall asleep on her own.”
I was adamant. Husband and I joke that we might not be perfect parents, but sleep is one department in which we have excelled. I have strong opinions on sleep. But ones I don’t usually preach. At a festive dinner with friends no less.
My friend didn’t seem offended. But as I write this, I wonder if she was. I hope not. I will have to call and apologize.
But is giving advice something for which we should apologize? Or is giving advice sometimes a good thing even if it is tough to hear?
A few days ago, I published a post announcing the arrival of my new nephew. I explained that as much as I would like to, I cannot just hop a plane to Chicago to meet the newest member of the Donnelley clan. Many of you chimed in, congratulating my sister and my family, echoing my praise for modern technology. But one of you didn’t play as nice. One of you, a friend of mine, pushed me to rethink my plans to stay put. You said,
At the risk of sounding pushy (oh well I’ll take the risk), I say call the airlines and jump on a plane. We all travel for funerals, travel for the celebrations too. I am a slave to technology but you can’t smell that baby in a video and they grow very fast, as you well know. Just a comment, file it where you’d like.
I read these words and I grew a bit defensive. In my mind, I started listing all the meetings and commitments I have this week. All the reasons why I can’t just go. But my defensiveness faded and quickly and I felt myself nodding. This is life. This is a big deal. The biggest of deals. I can go. I will go.
These words that popped up in my cozy little comment box? They were advice. And I didn’t necessarily want this advice. But I needed it. Thank you, Lauren, for the push. Thanks for the comment. I will file it right here.
Right now, I am signing off. I have a flight to book.
Any advice on advice? How to give it? How to take it? Are you cautious about dispensing advice to others? Do you find it difficult to hear and heed the advice of others? Do you agree that sometimes the advice we don’t seek is the best advice of all?