Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Shouldn't be Honest in front of Your Kids

Yesterday morning, I got an email from Babble.com.  If you read parenting blogs, you know about this operation.  It's the mothership of the genre.  I don't really understand how it works, but it has about a million different contributors and sections and features.  Kind of like the Huffington Post of parenting.

If you write a parenting blog, you probably got the same email as I did.

The message was basically: "Hey, you with the blog!  Click here to read this new controversial post and then tell all your readers about it so they come over and read it too!"  It was a shameless bit of link-baiting, and I went for it hook, line, and sinker.  I mean, I knew what was up, but I had to take a look.  And here I am now telling you about this controversial post.

But I'm not going to tell you to go read it.  It's not really worth it.  If you read Babble today, check out the latest posts from John Cave Osborne instead (you owe me a beer, pal).  *Update--I didn't realize this, but as I was writing this, John was writing his own response, here.)

Here's the gist of the "Major Mom Confession" post:

The writer, a mom of two who is expecting her third, admits that she loves her son more she loves his older sister.  In a particularly weird twist that doesn't have much bearing on her controversial confession except in that it reveals what might be typically incoherent thinking on her part, she hopes that she is pregnant with a girl this time, so she can redeem herself by having a better relationship with the new daughter than she does with the older one.  But the main point is that she loves the boy more than the girl, feels terrible about it, and feels it necessary to unburden herself of this in front of the internet.

The most "shocking" morsel from the piece is when she says, "There are moments--in my least sane and darkest thoughts--when I think it wouldn't be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son (assuming crazy, dire, insane circumstances that would never actually occur in real life)."  Then there are some qualifications and a little backpedaling, some rationalizations, and an emphasis that she feels a great deal of guilt about her favoritism.

Then the comment section (almost 400 strong when I read it) happens. And, lo, there is much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth and using of caps lock.  I skimmed, but I did notice that in the comments, the author defends herself and says she hopes her daughter will read the post when she's older, because it will strengthen their relationship somehow.

I put "shocking" in quotes earlier because I suspect that this confession, even though it's probably based on her actual feelings, is quite calculated, and aimed at driving traffic to the website and the author's other projects.

Not like we all don't try to attract readers.  But this stunt is pretty transparent and over-the-top.

Right?

Well, what if my cynical she-did-it-for-the-pagehits analysis is wrong, and she actually thought it was a good idea to announce her "least sane and darkest thoughts" on a very popular website?  In that case, the cynical explanation is the much less horrifying.

If we entertain the possibility that she didn't do it for the pagehits, then why would she have written this?  To let other moms (Babble is very mom-centric) know that they're not alone in favoring one kid over the others, and that they too should release themselves from the guilt by spilling their guts?  That honesty is always the best policy?

There are times when being totally honest and forthcoming is totally selfish and destructive.  And expressing your strong preference for one sibling over the other is one of those times.  It's not like you can help it if you like one kid more than the other.  But that's when, as a parent, you need to fake it for all you're worth.  You need to fake it until you have convinced even yourself that you love your kids equally.

I don't know if that's what a therapist would tell the author of the Babble article (and a number of her commenters wisely suggested that she shit out her guilt onto a paid professional instead of the internet, and inevitably sometime in the future, her own kids), but this seems to me like an instance that calls for good old-fashioned repression.  It worked when I was growing up and my parents never let on that I was their favorite.  I knew it, of course: because how could it be any other way?  And my parents knew it, naturally.  But my poor, naive sisters had no idea.  They probably thought they were the favorites.  My parents were that good.

We all have our "least sane and darkest thoughts."  (Don't we? It's not just me, is it?)  But most of us have the good sense not to broadcast them in a way that will eventually hurt people we are supposed to be protecting from harm.  If you become obsessed with those thoughts, you should probably talk to a professional or a really smart friend about them.  Otherwise, just think about something else, for crying out loud.

Thus concludes today's sermon.



***

Speaking of link-bait, how about reading my latest post on MamaPop, about kids' music that doesn't suck.  Maybe you could even add a few suggestions in the comment section over there.    

 

35 comments:

  1. I've been hearing about that post for days, and I've avoided reading it because it just makes me sick. Whatever her reasons are for writing that, she just gave her kids therapy fodder for the rest of their lives. What a jackass.

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  2. I left a really awesome comment on your last post, at Dad-centric, but the internet swallowed it and I was too lazy to redo it. Just thought I'd let you know.

    That lady is an idiot. Everyone has favorites...they just don't say it.

    My mom told me, just a few months ago, that I was her favorite and I was not to tell my sister. Her everyday attitude would suggest otherwise, but maybe that's all a part of the plan. I don't lose any sleep over it, I'll tell you that. Probably because, favorite or not, I'm clearly the smarter, cuter one anyway.

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  3. I agree with faking it until you believe it. I don't have kids, but if I ever thought my parents loved my sister more than me, then it would hurt like hell and I doubt I'd have the same relationship with them. I think it's a parent's responsibility to make each child feel like they have nothing to worry about in the love department.

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  4. As far as the 'page hits'... hey, this is the internet... I've seen it all.. Even those who post that someone has died and then the person who has died was never dead... The internet has a lot of strange things going on... This woman's feelings may be true... right now my 20 yr. old is driving me thru hell and I too often wonder if I am being tested.. I often wonder what it would be like if I hadn't had him... He was an 'oops' baby... which is not to diminish anything... I learned the term 'oops' from other women who had baby #3 that wasn't planned but gladly welcomed... For people to jump all over that person and for all those page hits, granted people are shocked, then again.. Wait till u have to walk in another person's shoes...They say truth hurts, but then again, it is the truth...Emotions, words reflect what people are feeling and that should not be discounted even tho it may be harsh to hear... life and death is harsh, believe me, i've experienced loss more loss between 2001 and 2004 than most. i could say some harsh things but i've learned from the loss and why that loss was experienced...

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  5. Maybe the takeaway from this is that parents should either have only one kid which removes favoritism from the equation, or else have seven or eight kids in which case you’re just statistically likely to hate a couple of them which removes the need for guilt entirely. No?

    Or... maybe I’m kidding and this woman is a piece of work either way. Yeah, what a shame for her kids. And us, kinda, because she’s going to be hard to put out of mind now.

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  6. I haven't seen (nor read the book) that movie, Ordinary People, in a long, long time, but your description of this woman's These Are My Confessions post reminded me of that.


    Pam

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  7. Well said! It's a horribly selfish thing she did! And in the name of a future reconcilliation? Uh, whuck??? She is blessed that she has her kids. Nothing less. Period. We ALL gripe about our kids but her piece left me sick to my stomach...

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  8. I didn't read the blog in question, but the idea of airing that confession is so sad to me- whatever the motive behind it. There are moments when one (or all) of my kids fall out of favoritism- but they are fleeting and mostly circumstantial (ie- the teenager lying about his grades). If I were to ever let on in the heat of those moments how I really felt, I know that I would damage my child(ren) so irrevocably. So, I , as you say, repress. If the blogger's feelings toward her daughter are that broken, than yes she needs therapy. And if she is simply airing this confession for pagehits- she still needs therapy.

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  9. I don't get it. I don't have favorites among my children. Ok, that is a lie, when it comes to using a urinal my son will always be my favorite over his sister. Just as when it comes to delivering babies I prefer my daughter over him.

    It is just weird.

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  10. I was once told by my father-in-law that Leon,my nephew,was his favourite grandchild.

    I never knew Mrs Jack possessed enough strength to drag me away....

    You may think these things but you never admit them in public.

    Personally I couldn't choose between either Kathryn or Elizabeth in any way shape or form.

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  11. Eww. Well written (Andy). Some things we should only say with our 'inside voice'. Please people. If she's actually being honest I don't have anything nice to say about her decision to potentially stab her kid in the heart.

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  12. Obviously it would be better if she hadn't have done this, but, if she is genuine, doesn't she deserve a little compassion? Hopefully writing it helped and she'll go away and delete the post before her child can see it. You're right that sometimes there are things that should be kept secret and not made blog fodder but maybe this was all she had this time.

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  13. My thought was just...."so, she wrote something not all that nice on a blog, why does this warrant my time and attention again?"
    But then I saw what John wrote and thought it would suck to be the kid who grows up (ie, gets old enough to surf the web: 9), goes online, and reads it.

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  14. Sounds like a Jerry Springer guest that is literate. Lord help us.

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  15. Good old fashioned repression, I agree!

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  16. What? I thought I was the favorite?

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  17. I have an irrational terror of ever being presented with a "Sophie's Choice" kind of moment. I don't know why-- I mean, how likely is that?

    I do feel guilty because parenting is so much easier with my daughter than my son. But as a friend told me, she likes her kids at different times, sometimes at different years. They all go through their stages issues. And they are all different people. It's not that we love one more than the other, we love them differntly. One may make you laugh, the other may warm your heart.

    And on some days both can make you cry.

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  18. I don't think it's a COMPLETE ruse in terms of how the mother feels, but I'm sure they over dramatized it for the same solicitous reasons. I think women are so duplicitous when it comes to the stereotype of mamma's boy and daddy's girl. I think it's pretty obvious that mothers stereotypically have a tendency to favor or be more affectionate towards their sons and fathers have a weak spot for their daughters. Conservative psychoanalysts such as Freud call it the Oedipus complex, but I beg to differ. I think it's more of the archetypal female/male duality within everyone which appeals for attenuation with the opposite gender. But that's just me (I'm a kid, what do I know?)

    A clear cut example is my mom. I think she overcompensates with my sisters and I by giving us material concessions (she buys us whatever we ask from her), but when it comes to providing moral and maternal support, I think she's always been lenient and overly giving towards my older brother. Out of all of us kids, (I'm the youngest) he's the only one who's had a record for delinquency and substandard academic performance, and yet my mother supports him the most (he's 23, lives with us and is on his 6th year in college with my mother's funding). She's never been to any of my recitals, but she's gone to each one of his basketball games.

    I'm sorry if that's turned into a rant, but I think parents should face the truth that rarely are they going to find themselves to be "perfect" or equally giving.

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  19. I got the email. Didn't take the bait though. Too busy to be 'Shocked'.

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  20. I do believe the woman is just attention starved. The other option seems to border somewhat on insanity, especially since she thinks f'ing up further by having yet another child is somehow an ideal plan of action. That just can't be real.

    Also, she may need to be reminded that things written on the interent are written in pen, not in pencil.

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  21. @Emily--Exactly. There's really no advantage for anyone in posting that.

    @OTO--Damn it! I would love to have heard your take on that topic. I'm sure you had some great southernisms for lady parts. Even as a grownups, why would you tell someone who was the favorite? No good can come of it!

    @Henny Penny--I agree. I guess I was lucky. I honestly never remember contemplating who was Mom and Dad's favorite. They treated us as equitably as possible, even when some of us were being terrible.

    @KBF--Yeah--you don't need to share all of the darkest, deepest stuff with everyone.

    @Dad's Off the Couch--The worst shame is for her kids, indeed. The rest of us might benefit from her colossal blunder.

    @Pam--I don't think I ever saw Ordinary People. Just remember my mom and sisters crying over the book. I didn't want anything to do with it.

    @kmcaffee--Yeah, the future reconciliation thing was maybe the part of her post.

    @A Cappelli--Good point. Therapy is in order regardless.

    @Jack--Word.

    @JofB--I've heard a lot of stories about grandparents saying cruel things. You would think they'd know better!

    @Patrik--Thanks. And "inside voice" is a great way to put that. Nice double entendre!

    @Gypsy Kings--Oh, I have plenty of compassion for her. I just think she made a terrible mistake that might have serious consequences. I hope she lets all this fade away and is able to salvage her relationship with her daughter.

    @Muskrat--Yeah, that's the worst part. You just know someone is going to show the kid that post one day.

    @Kim--That's a great point. My kids are not yet two, and they've already been through a bunch of "phases" where one was more lovable than the other. I think it's a mistake to be fatalistic about relationships. They do change.

    @Leila--No need to apologize for ranting! You have a unique perspective as a young person, and I appreciate your input on this topic. Your frustration at your situation is palpable. It's been so long since most of us have felt that. (Although anyone will tell you that the residual effects of childhood sibling rivalries might mutate, but they never disappear completely.)

    @Shannon--Of course you thought that! Because Mom and Dad were masters at that stuff.

    @James--I shouldn't have taken the bait, I suppose. But I have no willpower with that kind of thing. It's like those Trader Joe's Hawaiian Style BBQ chips. I demolish the whole bag and then feel dirty and ashamed afterward.

    @Nari--Yup. There's definitely some pathology there.

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  22. Totally agree! I do feel a link-baiting, pagehit-baiting sort of thing. Like the TigerMom article. It's just a bit TOO sensational versus confessional.

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  23. I, like you, know I was the favorite. I was even given a sweatshirt proclaiming "Mom likes me best". The fact that my brothers also received the same sweatshirt means nothing.

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  24. oh good freaking grief. I'm not a mom though I want to be, but it's times like these I'm glad I'm not yet. why? because the whole parenting debate is so freaking dramatic! nobody cares that I'm a single slutty cat lady, but bring a child into it and the whole world bares its opinionated teeth.

    on the other hand, I *am* a blogger, and I generally don't take well to pandering and gimmicks. bloggers who buy into that really give the rest of us a bad name. and maybe she wasn't doing that. I don't know.I won't go read it because I really don't plan on buying into the hype.

    I do think there's a time and a place. I am the queen of TMI on the blog, but I hold back on the things that affect others in my life.

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  25. So well said. As I constantly remind the teenagers I work with: "Inside thoughts!" (quickly followed by my own inside thought: bleep.)

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  26. P.S. I too have my "least sane and darkest thoughts" especially regarding my own teenaged children.

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  27. Apparently I'm doing something wrong. I once wrote a post titled "Why my son isn't as cool as my daughter" and it barely got any hits.

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  28. I don't know, I think any observant kid (or adult child) can tell who the favorite amongst them is with each parent. My parents will never ever admit it, but I know who they each like best. Faking it may lessen whatever guilt the parent has, but that's about it.

    -Michelle

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  29. My oldest brother and I always teased my parents that middle brother was their favorite and that they babied him, but we were only joking (mostly). If I ever found out that my parents loved one of us more than the other and that they would be "ok" with losing one of us, it would devastate me! I'm all for giving children what they need when they need it (like when oldest daughter is sick and needs to be babied more than younger daughter, stuff like that), but that woman is just evil to announce that to the world. We all love our kids in different ways. My oldest daughter is so smart that I show her mad learnin' skills off to everyone and I am so in love with her for wanting to push herself to be the best she can. I call youngest daughter my little angel. She's tells me I'm her cupcake and loves to sit on my lap and cuddle for hours. It's okay to love them more for different things, but when you get right down to it, each child holds 50% of my heart and I would rather gouge my eyes out with a spork than see either one hurt.
    Ok, rant over. :) It just really angers me when parents don't treat their children with the love and respect they deserve.

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  30. I'm thinking she was drunk blogging! We've all been there before. DOH!

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  31. When you're right, you're right. BD, you're very right. And I'd like to add that it's been my experience that the favorites change depending on the season. That's why it's dangerous to commit to a favorite.

    She's just not going to be able to undo this damage. For shame.

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  32. I read the article and I get that she didn't bond as well with her daughter, as compared to her son. But the way she phrased it was clearly inflammatory and yes, link-baity. If she'd just written an article comparing the two bonding experiences, and left out the whole "I can imagine losing my daughter but never in a million years my son", it wouldn't have attracted nearly as much attention.

    But, like someone said, this is the internet where people fake entire sick babies for page hits. People are crazy.

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  33. If John buys you two beers I'll drink one of them.

    See how I didn't give the rest of your post any attention, because that's what they want. I'm not feeding that monster.

    And I wasn't kidding about the beers.

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  34. I agree with the faking till you believe it!!! Honesty is best most of the time... huge emphasis on the word MOST!

    Great writing keep up the awesome work!

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