I feel compelled to write a post in response to an article that is making its way around social media right now. I left a rather lengthy reply on his post, but still had more to say. Plus, with over 6300 replies and counting, I’m pretty sure that mine is now lost in the shuffle.
The article is called “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations” and is a call-out to dads to make time for their kids and let their children know that they are a priority. The author wrote three pages on the subject, and I basically agree with most of what he said. I don’t think that his advice should be directed just to dads either. All of us, moms and dads, should be letting our sons and daughters know how much they are loved.
Something about the article made me uncomfortable though. At the very beginning of his post, he describes witnessing a scene between a father and son at Costco, in which a dad forcefully makes his son stand still and quietly. On the first reading, my heart ached for the little boy who was “broken” by his father. I scrolled to the bottom of the post to read the comments (Oh Lord…never read the comments), and was accosted by accusations from a number of moms who said that they would have called the police and social services. I stopped reading after about a dozen comments, but I think the last one I read was them mobilizing to see if they could hunt this dad down.
Before we start organizing a posse to bring this guy to justice, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves. Who among us has never had a moment when we’ve snapped at our kids, or ignored them when they were begging for our attention? Who hasn’t offered an exasperated sigh or yelled out of frustration? I’m not saying that what this man did was okay. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily a good dad. I just think that it’s hard to judge the quality of a person’s parenting skills on a few minutes observation of what may not have been his proudest moment.
I’ll tell you about my finest moment. It was a few months ago on a sunny spring day. Baby P. would have been around four months old or so and he was going through a phase where he was crying pretty much nonstop. After lunch one day, at the end of my rope, I decided to put him in his stroller and get out of the house, if only so the sound of the traffic would muffle the constant whining. As I tried to place him into the stroller, he started stiffening up and squirming around. I was trying to manoeuvre him into the straps, but they were getting all twisted around. He was getting progressively more hysterical, his tiny face turning bright red, as the straps got more and more twisted. After about five minutes of trying, my patience ran out.
I took him and placed him safely in his crib, then closed his bedroom door as he wailed away. I walked back into the living room where I proceeded to kick the ever-loving shit out the stroller. I mean, there were pieces of it everywhere. My frustration diffused, I reassembled the stroller, went into my baby’s room and got him out of his bed, put him into the stroller, and went out for a nice walk.
Could I have better handled the situation? Of course. Could I have done a worse job? Sure. I could have shaken my baby or screamed at him or let him watch as I beat up a defenseless piece of baby equipment. My point is that if anyone had seen me in that moment, in a fit of rage with my baby crying alone in his room, they would have thought I was a monster. If they had seen me just ten minutes later, they would have seen a happy mom and baby out for a walk on a lovely day.
I don’t know this dad’s story. I don’t know if he treats his son like that all the time, or if he was just having a bad moment on a bad day. Instead of jumping to call social services or threatening him, why not just offer a sympathetic smile and a “Rough day, huh?” Maybe just knowing that someone else sees what he’s doing will be enough for him to stop it. Maybe not. But before rushing to judgement, if you look deep down, you’ll know that there was a moment when you were there too.