DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay man in my late 40s who has worked for 10 years in the public school system with young adults and kids with special needs. I have done everything from changing preschoolers' diapers, to tutoring, travel training and teaching life skills to older children. In the process, I have encountered my share of cooperation, defiance, failure and success.
When speaking with family, friends or strangers about their parenting, I sometimes share my experiences. This is usually accepted and even encouraged, but occasionally I am put in my place by a parent who feels I must be told that what I've done "isn't the same as being a parent." Some even go so far as to imply that I should remain silent, as I have nothing of a parenting nature to offer.
I would think that making everyone feel included would be more important than official parent status, especially when discussing similar experiences. So what's the best way to handle this? I have no kids of my own; my students are all I have to share stories about. Should I just dummy up? -- SORT OF CHILDLESS IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR SORT OF CHILDLESS: No, but recognize that whatever you offered clearly made someone defensive. When people are in that mode, they aren't receptive to your opinion.
Remember the phrase "casting pearls before swine"? It means offering something valuable to those who don't understand that it's precious. You and I, and most parents, understand that you are rich in experience. Don't let the others get under your skin.