I remember when I read an article on how to deal with unwanted facial hair on your toddler.
Yes, you read that right: how to wax your toddler.
Most of us are appalled by the idea of plucking or waxing our babies to make them more aesthetically pleasing and this probably isn’t something I myself would do, mostly because I am not in possession of a toddler or a pot of hot wax.
Being a firm believer in the “to each her own” philosophy, what struck me most about the article was the backlash. People were PISSED.
There might be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are at least 50,000 ways to shame a mother. The magazine took the majority of the heat but one can assume that anyone expressing support would also be burned at the stake.
Would I wax my toddler? No. But do I respect a parent’s right to make this choice without shame or ridicule? Hell yes.
To put it simply, my parenting is not your business.
Trust me, I get it. For most of us, hair removal is about vanity. It’s frivolous, a wee bit painful and not medically necessary. Upper lip tweezing is not the kind of thing most parents would want to subject their child to.
But what if the hair was making the child embarrassed and hurting her self-esteem? What if she was being teased or bullied because she doesn’t look like everyone else? What if her parents resorted to waxing or plucking on the advice of their doctor? What if they’d exhausted all other options and just wanted their little girl to be happy and fit in? What if the child wanted the hair removed? Would we put down our pitchforks if any of this were true?
The point is, we rarely know what’s going on in someone else’s home, in someone else’s family. Thanks to social media, news, and images can be shared at breakneck speed and conclusions can be drawn faster than ever. And the best part is, we can actually tell that parent, magazine or fellow commenter exactly what we think of them in real time.
In 60 seconds or less we can see an image or read a clip, form an opinion, have that opinion validated by a bunch of strangers in the comments section, then fire off our own response as the flames of righteousness burn around us. Without the benefit of detail, context or more than a few seconds of thought we can appoint ourselves judge, jury, and executioner. We can shout “YOU’RE WRONG” from the rooftops anytime we disagree.
I didn’t grow up in the digital age. If I wanted to know something, I had to find the book and read about it or—gasp!—discuss it with a village elder (aka my parents). If I wanted to share an opinion I had to own that opinion because there was no online anonymity. I couldn’t hide behind my CATGURL17 username when I busted out my parents’ rotary dial phone to rage about the price of Jordache jeans or the snotty look Melissa gave me in health class.
I didn’t grow up with the ability to share my opinions far and wide so I’ve had to learn to judge other people much faster and, often, without the benefit of facts. This is exhausting, quite frankly, and I much prefer taking my time, weighing the evidence and giving people the benefit of the doubt.
But we can’t blame social media or the digital age entirely, can we? Some of us are just assholes, and I have no problem with assholes until they are pointed at me.
This is especially true when it comes to parenting. The venom that is consistently directed at parents who make mistakes, make different choices and express alternative points of view never ceases to amaze me. And by amaze, I mean piss off and disgust. The speed at which this happens is almost as gobsmacking as the mob mentality that follows.
“Is she bottle-feeding? WHAT? How dare she! Doesn’t she know breast is best? Oh look, more people think as I do. Maybe I should pile on and offer my opinion because I’m sure that’s what’s most helpful and productive at this moment.”
As a parenting writer, I make a living sharing my opinions and advice, which sometimes makes me feel like a circus tiger leaping through flaming hoops. And while I have no problem being disagreed with or corrected, it’s the outright judgment and vicious disdain for my beliefs and opinions that get me down.
Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s all-encompassing, sometimes lonely and often frustrating. There’s no manual, no encyclopedia (hello 1982!) that covers every physical, mental and emotional scenario or decision you will make as you try and do what’s best for your child. Wouldn’t it be great if turning to the Internet was less walking into a lion’s den wearing a suit of raw meat and more like a church social where wrinkly old women dispense advice over hot drinks?
Wouldn’t it be great to feel supported and empowered, not shamed, for our choices?
I believe it takes a village to raise a child but if that village doesn’t believe in “you do you”, I’d much rather go it alone. Because if I wanted someone to tell me I’m stupid and incompetent, I’d just ask my kids. Right after we’re done waxing.
Tagged under: mom 101