Parents are offering up gestures of kindness to neighbors and strangers to apologize in advance for any disruption their children might cause—while sleep training, on airplanes, and just out in the world. But is that consideration really necessary?

By Melissa Mills
January 05, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

When did parenting become a group activity? And why do parents—and especially moms—feel the need to minimize the reality of what it means to have an infant, a toddler, or an active child? Things get loud, messy, and, yes, out of control sometimes. And you know what? That's normal.

There's a new trend popping up more and more where parents are apologizing to and gifting strangers in advance of their child causing some sort of a disturbance, usually before a flight or during something stressful like sleep training. The parents are praised as thoughtful and considerate—something to emulate—and though these moms and dads are genuinely good people for going out of their way like that, it's not really necessary.

The latest apology letter to go viral was posted to Twitter by user @KittyBeeJr who wrote, "neighbors left this on the door.. im [sic] gonna bake them some cookies." In the attached letter, a neighbor explains that they're about to start sleep training and apologizes in advance because, since it's an apartment building, others might hear the baby crying.

"I regret to inform you we have begun sleep training our son," the new parents wrote. "After many sleepless nights thanks to the dreaded 4-month sleep regression we have decided it is time to start the Cry-it-Out method. If you hear the cries please pray for me and know I am also crying and going insane. I’m very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you and let’s hope that it doesn’t last long."

I get it, being in an apartment building you want to be especially mindful of your neighbors. Maybe you'd expect an apology after a noisy party (or, depending on your style, an invite beforehand), but for a crying baby? Some things are simply out of our control.

Of course you want to be respectful of others, but the priority should be on focusing on the wants and needs of your children—and the well-being of your family. Any new, sleep-deprived parent knows that getting rest—for mom and dad, but also for baby—is crucial. And for parents who choose the extinction method or another form of sleep training, stress can be at an all-time high. As someone who's experienced it, sleep training is such a nerve-racking process as fragile parents attempt to set their babies up with healthy habits. There are going to be some tears along the way—I definitely shed a few of my own—but parents shouldn't also be burdened with worries that they're now also bad neighbors for doing what they think is best for their baby.

Don't parents already have enough on their plates without also having to apologize just for living? They're tired and juggling a million things, and now they also need to be concerned about how their neighbors and even strangers might react to their baby? Nope.

This apologizing trend sets a dangerous precedent that's only adding to the guilt and pressure many parents already feel. Especially now when we're all stuck at home more and just trying to survive amid a pandemic, we've got to give ourselves and others a little grace.

I remember the first time I flew with my now 2-year-old. He was about 8 months old, refused to sleep, and screamed for an hour straight. Nothing my husband and I tried—snacks, toys, or walking up and down the plane's aisle—worked. I was sweating and blotchy with embarrassment. After the flight, as our family of three waited for our stroller, several older men and women (I imagine they were grandparents) approached us and completely changed our moods. "Hang in there," one said. "We've all been there before! You're doing a great job," said another.

Thinking about those gestures of kindness still brings a smile to my face and a feeling of relief to my soul. Let's work on that being a new trend. On normalizing and promoting the support of new parents, and parents in general. After all, it's a job you learn on the go with little-to-no training, but it's one of the most important things you'll do.

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