Part of the benefit of living far away from your family is that you’re not required to spend hours at anyone’s house for holidays, or stay longer than you want to after dinner, or even use your only vacation days every year to visit them (but you still do and nobody even appreciates it). The downside to living far away from your family is that sometimes you miss stuff, like nieces or nephews who grew up with you only a couple of blocks away and now have to make do (and somehow still feel like you’re connected to them) with Skype.
I Skyped with my nephew last week. We don’t do that as often as we used to, what with the time zone difference and also he’s seven and apparently that’s the new age where all adults are stupid and he has no time for me asking questions anymore because every single one of his responses is dripping with exasperation and attitude. I guess I thought that kind of thing didn’t start until maybe age ten, but along with things like computers and hormones in milk and periods, the pissy part of adolescence has accelerated since I was a kid, and apparently boys today get shitty a lot earlier than they used to.
Aaaaaaand this is all I’m allowing myself to say about it. See, in addition to the general attitude, I learned another nephew-related thing during our Skype conversation and I. Did. Not. Like. It. One. Bit. And like a lot of other things I don’t like, I was initially moved to write something about it. It was the only thing in my head to write about (a flimsy excuse for not having posted in a week), but something kept pulling me back. I decided to give it a shot just to see what happened, but then, midway through the first paragraph, I stopped. It’s not that I liked the situation any more or ran out of things to say, it’s just that I realized that writing about the situation in detail wasn’t very different from posting a Facebook video of kids misbehaving, throwing a tantrum, or being shamed by their parents.
And I hate when people do that to their kids.
Look, I understand that as a parent, you have to deal with your kids stealing all of your sleep, money, time, and whatever that feeling is when you’re not experiencing stomach-churning anxiety and heartbreak every second of your life. Calm? Contentment? Something? I get it. You’re allowed to get those fuckers back every now and then. But I don’t think it’s okay when parents use social media to embarrass their children, especially when the children are just being children. You know, that kind of behavior that you should have been expecting when you decided to have a child in the first place. Kids scream. Kids cry. Kids act like megalomaniacal freakshow lunatics most of the time. You know this, right? Tell me you know this.
I know this, and having seen a few tantrums in my time, I get that some of the kid-related assholery is a lot more funny than it is tragic. I also get that once you live with that sort of thing, there’s some satisfaction in getting laughs or commiseration by sharing the information. But when you habitually post videos of your child’s screamy tirades on Facebook and you’re laughing behind the camera, I mean, who do you think looks like the bigger shithead in that scenario?
(Hint: it’s not your kid.)
I am thankful every day that the Internet in its current form did not exist when I was a kid, or even when I was a teenager. Mostly because I’m certain I would have handily humiliated myself about a thousand times a day back when my brain was ruled by hormones and I had only a vague understanding of personal boundaries. But now, looking through my Facebook feed every day, I’m thankful that my parents didn’t have access to the Internet, either, because I’m not really comfortable with the idea that every dumb thing I said or every dumb thing they didn’t like about me could have been posted across the largest social network in the world for every single person they knew to see in detail.
Think about that next time you want to gripe about your children. When you’re not just griping, I mean. Just griping is fine. You’re allowed to complain or admit that your kids aren’t perfect or express a desire to leave them in the backyard while you run shrieking down the street towards the nearest bar. That’s normal.
But when you continually document your child’s distress for the purpose of mocking them in a public space, you’re crossing a line. You’re violating an implicit trust you hold with them as their parent and provider, and more than that, you’re holding up their poor behavior not as an example of how unreasonable they are (because what 5-year-old isn’t unreasonable?!), but as an example of your own crap parenting skills.
And eventually, I won’t feel sympathy or pity for the person filming a 3am meltdown. I’ll feel sympathy and pity for the kid, because they’ve spent their entire life being made trivial by their own parents.