Before becoming parents most of us have lists of the things we will and won’t do when we welcome children into our lives. But we can’t possibly predict how we will react in all situations because the possibilities are infinite.
And beyond that, as technology evolves there are possibilities that we can’t even predict. Fifteen years ago we didn’t imagine the extent to which our future children would live their lives online. Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have revolutionized the way that people interact and those children who are just coming of age in this digital revolution will never know any different.
I am amazed by the power of the world wide web to form connections between people. Without it we wouldn’t have met Mac’s dad and consequently wouldn’t have Mac. In fact, without the internet I would have never even met Tracy since I met her when a girl I had dated started dating a new girl and the new girl introduced me to her ex-girlfriend whom she had met online (did you follow that? It is surprisingly more common in lesbian circles than you’d imagine). But the downside to the internet is that the words we say to each other through that medium exist forever. Our lives leave a digital footprint and we can’t always predict the ways that those footprints will impact our future.
And that brings me to the point of this (non-Monday) post. This video has gone viral. No doubt you have seen it circulating on your Facebook newsfeed. The Reader’s Digest version is that the father of a girl named Hannah finds that she has posted a letter complaining about her parents on her Facebook page. In response, her father reads the letter on camera, lectures her on how spoiled she is, then takes a gun and shoots her precious laptop.
Haven’t seen it yet? Press play and join me below.
So? Thoughts? The video now has 24,386,304 views and 196,473 comments. There are some who criticize the father’s handling of the situation but the majority of respondents are giving him a large, digital, standing ovation. The sentiment seems to be that in the post –Toddlers-and-Tiaras world, kids today are too soft and too spoiled. Finally finally! some parent is saying enough is enough and using his kid’s own medium to deliver the message. Comments include “This is amazing. You have made my day, sir. Clapping*. You are the best parent in the world!” and “~claps~ BRAVOOO.. also though.. i think you should shoot her phone because she can get on facebook from there.”
But let’s examine exactly what is going on here. Hannah’s father is angry that she embarrassed him by airing private family business online. So, to retaliate, he embarrassed her by airing private family business online. In addition, he destroyed property in a very violent way.
Now, my child is still a baby so discipline has yet to enter into my parenting skill set. But my guess is that teaching a child to be respectful while disrespecting them is unlikely to be productive.
As he read Hannah’s public letter I tried to imagine myself as her parent. I would be embarrassed, certainly. And I would likely be angry. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of sympathy for her situation. Hannah is acting out but in her own mind she is very justified. She feels overworked and underappreciated. How many of us feel that way in our jobs or in our relationships? The difference is that, as adults, our brains are developed enough to know better than to air those feelings on a public forum. At only 15 Hannah does not yet have an adult brain and it is up to her parents to help guide her as it develops. She needs someone to listen to her complaints (her parents walking with dirty boots on the floor she just cleaned? I’d be pissed off too!) equally as much as she needs guidance (like teaching her not to refer to Linda as “the cleaning lady”).
But what she doesn’t need is to be publicly shamed. Particularly not with a video that has been uploaded to Youtube and will follow her to college and beyond. Technology is evolving faster than we understand and our ability to process the ramifications is lagging behind. In the olden days when our relationships with family members played out face-to-face and over the phone the angry words we said to one another might sting, and the worst of them might even hurt us to our core, but they were never immortalized into digital archives. If every angry word I said to my parents, or they said to me, during my teenage years existed online, up for public consumption, I fear we would not have the relationship that we have today.
I hope that Hannah’s father is able to see where he went wrong here and apologize to his daughter. Apologies can go a long way in a troubled family. I hope that they are all able to learn from the many mistakes that have been made and can grow and heal as a family.
And now back to Mac and my hopes for my own parenting. I know I have a list of the things I hope for him as he grows but I suppose I should also have a list of things I hope for myself as I grow into a parent. I hope that I will listen to his frustrations even if I don’t feel like he is justified in having them. I hope that I will teach him how to be respectful while also showing him respect. I hope that when I make mistakes (which I of course will) I hope that I will be able to recognize them and apologize. And, if I continue to blog about him as he grows, I hope that I will remember that some stories are not mine to tell.
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