This season of gatherings and events can be very stressful for little ones- and for their mamas! Sometimes going into situations armed with a plan can reduce our anxiety. I don't mean to borrow trouble and worry about what people might say or do, but merely to become settled in your mind before you arrive.
“I do not owe anyone an explanation about why I parent the way I do.”
“I do not need to defend my choices.”
“My child is loved and thriving.”
“My priorities are different from other people's, and that is OK.”
Also remember that your baby is not a toy which must be passed around or shared. They are a person with needs and the right to have those needs respected. If they need to be in your arms to feel safe, you are not “selfish” or “overprotective” to continue holding them for the duration of the event. I highly recommend baby wearing for situations like this. Requests to see baby are easily met with, “Oh he is so happy and safe right now, I don't plan to move him.”, and then turn so that people can interact with baby while still on you.
This absolutely applies to older children as well. A toddler or preschooler should not be made to hug or kiss or sit on laps of people when they don't want to. Body autonomy is one of the most important things for our children to value at an early age. Their body, their rules. This is not an excuse to be rude, so do teach your child how to execute a proper handshake or high five. Alternatively, a verbal greeting is also completely polite and acceptable.
A great way to deflect criticism about your parenting is to simply not engage. For too many people, engaging equals negotiation, so far better to simply give one stock answer. “Is that baby still nursing?” “Is that baby still sleeping with you?” “Is that baby still waking up 17 times a night?”
All of these can be met with a smile and a, “Baby is developing brilliantly, thank you. Did you see that sale on chicken thighs? I totally stocked my freezer with that price!”
I know that it gets lonely to not be able to truly share the hard bits of the parenting journey (because as much as we love it, there ARE hard bits) with those who are supposed to be loving and supportive. This is a very valid grief to feel. But the wise thing to do is to not arm unsupportive people with information that can be used against you. In some relationships there may be a time when a face to face is needed and hard things discussed (Why can't you support my parenting choices? I feel like I can't be honest with you when you turn the things I share back on me). But rarely are the holidays the right time for this kind of serious interaction. Visit your favorite parenting community (or message me), get a breather, and purpose to stand strong in your convictions and not allow curmudgeons to spoil the season for you and your family.