I love Reasons My Son Is Crying, and I’m not ashamed
"Hey Cat, check this out". Those words marked my first experience with the Tumblr entitled "Reasons My Son is Crying". I scrolled through the site with my husband, reading the captions beneath each image and laughing together. "This looks like my son!" I thought. Each image brought back memories of a difference instance where he had cried, seemingly for no reason at all. It was an adorable, two-minute distraction, and I thought nothing more of it.
A few days later, however, I read several tweets commenting on how exploitative it was. How awful. How terrible. Clearly this man hated his child and wanted nothing to do with him. Honestly, I was kind of dumbfounded. The sheer angry vitriol was absolutely not, in any way, what I had felt when I visited the site. People were saying that any adult who takes a picture of their child crying and shares it with other people is a horrible, exploitative, monster who deserved to have their kids taken away because “they clearly don’t want to be parents.” All sorts of terrible assumptions being leveled at a person who, in my eyes, was sharing a candid snapshot of his family life with the world. A snapshot that I, as a fellow parent, was thankful for. This was a sly wink, a nod that said “I know what you’re going through. I go through it every day, too.” To me, this was not a malicious act of someone who hates his child. This was a parents way of finding levity in a situation that can drive you mad, can exhaust you, can strip you down to nothing. Even so, when our kids are acting up or are hard to handle, we love them. We may not like their behaviour, but we love them.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my experience is unique. Maybe my kids, are the first kids in the history of the world that are at times difficult and trying. Maybe every single other parent in the world has perfect children. Children who have never physically thrown themselves in to dangerous situations. Children who have never had reactions to situations that seemed bizarre and completely out of place. Maybe not only are my kids terrible, but I’m terrible, too. And you know what? They very well might be. I have no other experiences to draw from. I don’t have young siblings. I don’t have young cousins. Before I had children, I hadn’t even held a baby. My experience with children and parenting was based solely on what I’d seen in the media. I didn’t know anyone with kids. And even after four years, I am still unprepared for how absolutely exhausting, emotionally and mentally, it can be. But what I’m even less prepared for is the absolute minefield that is Dealing With Other Parents. And it’s sickening to see parents making such nasty assumptions about other parents for speaking out about their daily lives. It’s nasty, isolating, catty, cliquey behaviour that strives to exclude all but a tiny percentage of the parenting population. Honestly, I worry more about the people who can’t talk about how hard it can be to raise children than I do the ones who joke about it. If you’re getting that mad over something a stranger is doing, what kind of reaction do you have when your spouse or child does something that you don’t approve of?
When I see people getting mad at a parent for even daring to acknowledge that parenting can be hard, it’s depressing. Behaviour like this is the reason that women with PPD don’t feel like they can talk about their experiences. Why parents are afraid to discuss parenting honestly, for fear that someone may misinterpret one difficult situation with a hatred of parenting as a whole. If we don’t let parents acknowledge that raising children has it’s shitty, thankless parts, we foster this unspoken myth that parenting is always fun and easy and a barrel of laughs. That parents who become tired, or exhausted, or just plain burnt out are somehow “bad” parents for feeling those ways. By overreacting, saying that “he clearly hates his child”, they are effectively shutting down any and all conversation about what it actually means to be a parent. You can’t engage someone who is Concern Trolling, because they’re not interested in productive, mutual discussion. They’re concerned about a 140 character quip that garners as much rage and attention that it can.
So no, I don’t feel guilty for enjoying RMSIC. Because it reminds me that all parents go through the same thing I’m going through. It reminds me that for every parent out there blogging about how fantastic their 15 month old piano prodigies are at potty training themselves while their parents hand-craft holiday ornaments out of salvaged vintage lace and run their entire spotless households without any help, there is a parent like me, who is staring at a 2 year old crying hysterically over a piece of broken cheese, not knowing what path to take next. And it makes me smile. And it makes me laugh. And I’m glad I can laugh, because if I didn’t know how to laugh in a situation like this, I’d be crying.