(Original image via www.allday.com)
Dear Reader, or as Elizabeth Gilbert would say: Dear Ones,
Well, it’s been quite a busy week since we last spoke. I went to a 3 year olds party, which proved to be one of the most fun parties I’ve ever attended. I was served pink gin and who knew toddler tutus could be worn in such innovative ways? I’m also in the early stages of growing out my hair and all I can say is thank heavens we’re headed for beanie season.
On a more sombre note, I’ve recently been at the sharp end of some barbed parental criticism. This, I confess, has not been fun. It’s been the opposite. Quite unfun, actually. Although the critique was general, rather than personal, I took it upon myself to feel personally attacked. As one does. As a parent, you know.
Anyhow, it got me thinking: Just who. THE fuck. Do people think they are to point fingers?
This isn’t the first time I’ve contemplated this. In fact, not long after Mr Chilled was born I started writing a little handbook called “The A-Z of Motherly Madness.” Whilst you might think that this is a book that’s filled with stories of sleepless nights, poopey nappies and how your breast pads leaked, it isn’t. It’s mostly filled with stories about how utterly painful it is having to deal with other adults, other parents and know-it-all society members in general.
From the moment you’re pregnant it’s as if you’re wearing a huge neon sign on your forehead that says “ARSEHOLE COMMENTARY WELCOME”. I had everyone, from grannies wagging their fingers at me saying, “Just wait until you see what’s coming” to single, childless men reminding me that “Boys don’t wear pink”.
But if I thought that unwelcome comments and wanky advice was a pain in the arse back then, you can only imagine my horror, when, upon the advent of Facebook, people saw fit to adopt their very own virtual soapboxes and spout enough advisory and judgmental rhetoric to sink a ship. Don't they know that in order to have a real virtual soapbox you need a blog?
Once you become a parent, you’re directly in the line of fire of the opposite of Facebook likes. The unlike end, if you will. If Facebook had icons for finger-wagging and pointing fingers, they would surely be the most used. “Pam checked in at Sanctimoniousville and is feeling finger-waggy”, “Simon checked in at Holier-than-thou-Hoek and is feeling “finger-pointy”, and “Dave checked in at I’mTooAmazingVlei and is feeling self-righteous”. You get the picture. I feel it’s a tragic oversight that Facebook hasn’t made an icon for the middle finger.
But I think we need to look at this dishing-out-of-parenting-advice from two angles. First, from the angle of childless people, and then from the angle of people who actually have children.
Childless people. What. The. Fuck? Just shut up, truly. You’re making a git of yourself. If you’re struggling with this concept let me explain it to you in simple terms, by means of an analogy. Let’s pretend that I’m the kind of person who watches a lot of tennis and, because I watch tennis, I start believing that I know how to play tennis. I become so convinced of my tennis abilities that I start commenting on how other people should be playing tennis. However, I’ve never actually played tennis myself. In fact, I don’t even know how to hold a racquet. I start chatting with other tennis enthusiasts who also watch tennis but don’t know how to play it either. Between ourselves we decide that there’s lots of room for improvement as far as tennis playing is concerned and so we decide to tell those, who actually ARE playing tennis, how to play tennis.
Do you see the problem here? Whereas I might be an expert at observing tennis and may even have done some reading up on “How to be the PERFECT Tennis Player”, my interest in tennis doesn’t make me invested in tennis. And how do you become invested in tennis? There’s only one way: play tennis yourself. Until then, just know that whatever knowledge you think you have about tennis is irrelevant until such time that you yourself get onto the court. #word.
Now for parents. Seriously? WTF? You should know better.
I recently got invited to a parenting group on Facebook. Being invited to a Facebook group is like being asked to Like, Share, and type AMEN. You don’t really want to do it, but you feel pressured into it, lest other people thing that you don’t really care about the issue at hand. The thing is, though, belonging to a parenting forum is the parental equivalent of reading a beauty magazine: you just feel inadequate. Via a barrage of articles, you get the feeling that your child is on the verge of getting scurvy due to poor diet, that they spend too much time on their iPads, that they eat too much sugar, that you’re the spawn of Satan for vaccinating, and that, in short, your offspring are doomed to become psychopaths.
But what’s even worse than the timeline on a parenting forum, is taking a scroll down your Facebook feed. Here you will find people liking and sharing all manner of crappy advice on parenting. Posters showing cute yellow minions saying things like “If you got respect spanked into you, like and share”. (As a complete aside, I’m quite, quite certain that minions would not subscribe to that philosophy.)
Bit the thing that has me foxed about these kind of memes is the person posting it doesn’t make it clear to whom it’s directed. The thought has crossed my mind that they’ve in fact shared it as a reminder to themselves - as one might pin up your favourite sayings on your pin-board at home – rather than as a comment that’s directed towards others. But if it indeed is directed towards other parents, I have to wonder: is it directed towards me? Or is it directed towards you? Just who exactly is responsible for raising these belligerent, disrespectful, precocious children? Do they walk amongst us, or are they in some other distant land where disrespect, belligerence and precociousness are the norm? It’s all very exhausting to figure out.
I really have to hope it’s not directed at me. Coz, you know, fuck you and all your preachy wankishness. Unless you have a tattoo on your forehead stating “PERFECT PARENT, ALL MY KIDS ARE A SUCCESS STORY”, I just don’t think you should be bandying around memes about other people’s parenting abilities.
Of couse, you also get the intellectual types who won’t recycle playful memes, but instead will draw from an incredibly reliable knowledge base that has been entirely gleaned from the archives of Facebook. Using recycled sensationalist columns that were only ever intended to drive traffic to websites bearing the names of “Lentil soup for your soul” and “Intuition for Conscious Enlightened Perfectpants People” as ammunition, they tout themselves as “well read” and, without employing any critical thinking, will take these “articles” as the gospel. It would be funny if it weren’t so un-fucking-funny.
Some parents are sneaky and use boasting as a way to wag their fingers at other parents. They’ll say things like “I’m so glad my Sarah loves to read”. Subtext: Your kid’s a reprobate because they don’t. Or, one of my favourites “I’m so lucky that Lou-Lou knows how to play and use her imagination”. Subtext: what kind of parent are you that you let your kids watch TV? Hashtag ARSEHOLEPARENT.
The thing is, most parents I know think that, most of the time, they’re fucking up royally with this parenting thing. Still, they’re doing their best and, as the saying goes, if you don’t have something positive to say, perhaps don’t say anything at all. And for those people who are winning at parenting, as my dad would say, Bravo!~ Bully for you! But there’s no need to be such a dick about it (he never said the last bit, that’s all mine).
And on that note I think I’m going to go and devise more ways that I can be the worst parent possible and completely stuff up my children’s lives. I’m thinking Ritalin might be the way to go. But that, dear ones, is a story for another day.