My daughter recently bought a necklace with two broken hearts that fit together – you know the kind. One person wears one side of the heart and the other wears the other. The words “BEST FRIENDS” were written on it.
She wore her half and started going through her list of friends wondering whom she could give the other half to.
Suddenly a pang of – what, jealousy? Love? Motherhood? – overtook me. If anyone was going to be best friends with my daughter, I wanted that person to be me.
“I’ll wear it,” I ventured. “If you want.”
“YES!!!” she screamed. “I was going to give it to you but I didn’t know if you’d like it because you have your style of dressing.”
I’ve been wearing it proudly around my neck. Our two little pieces of hearts that come together and fit.
But consider this line: “I’m your mother, not your friend. You don’t have to like me.”
Say you’re a friend to your children is now akin to saying you’re a bad parent.
Remember this meme that gets shared so often on social media? “I am not your friend!” it blares. “I am your parent. I will stalk you, I will flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, hunt you down when needed. Because I love you.”
Really? Is that what we really want to be? Our child’s worst nightmare? But, but… it makes a great soundbite.
We can’t talk about parenting any more. We certainly can’t talk about it in any meaningful way, especially on social media. Opinions are already formed and all nuance scrubbed clean out of them.
Consider the news story about the physician, who also happens to be a writer, scolding parents, “You’re doing it wrong.” It’s not a question, it’s a sentence is the overwhelming tone of the story, giving overbearing parents everywhere permission to demand perfect obedience.
But that’s not what he’s saying, you argue.
No he isn’t, but every person who comments under the story on Facebook every time it is shared is. Later, these commenters will give themselves permission to be brusque and brash and issue “sentences, not questions” at their children in an attempt at better parenting.
And they will look critically at others who don’t.
Last year, when a gorilla had to be put down because a child fell into the pit at the zoo, the video from one news page alone was shared 164,394 times, viewed 22 million times, with 54,000 comments all pointing their finger at the mother, unilaterally deciding that she must have had her head stuck in her phone.
“Turn off your phones and pay attention to your kids!” became the drumbeat.
The world has taken on proportions of one big witchhunt out for the blood of parents.
Here’s another example. Did you hear how consistently both politicians referred to my children and yours as “our children” this last election cycle? Whose children? Excuse me, but I don’t remember voting that into law. Did you?
The Pew Research Center recently discovered that 75% – that’s 3 out of 4 parents – got parenting advice and support from their friends and other news stories from social media. 3 out of 4!
That’s 3 out of 4 parents being told day in and day out that they’re doing it wrong, that their children are just plain rude, that the children don’t really belong to them, it takes a village and a government and oh, by the way, they should get their heads out of their phones and start paying attention to the kids.
Forget Elf on the Shelf, we’re turning into a nation of Krampuses.
Everyone has an opinion – an extreme one – and it’s shared. This is not support; this is bullying. Over and over and over again, until it’s a sound bite in a mother’s tired, befuddled head.
Is it any wonder people don’t want to have children?
Is it possible that in this age of entertainment and information, parenting has become just another option for infotainment? Has it become the new way to bond?
Stop it. Just stop. Stop telling us how to raise our kids. If you get on Facebook, talk about the weather or take a picture of your food. If it takes a village to raise a child today, please, just leave my kids out of it.