I read a hilarious list this week called 46 Reasons My Three-Year-Old May Be Freaking Out. It’s funny because it’s true. Our youngest is three, and he has completely fallen apart over many of the things on this list and a few others I could add (I gave him the wrong cup, he wanted to put the toast in himself, he asked for milk but really he meant juice and I failed to read his mind… you get the picture).
But then I made the mistake of scrolling through the comments below. And I saw the same two comments that appear so often when someone writes a humorous post about the challenges of parenting those bizarre creatures known as toddlers.
The first is the “what’s wrong with kids these days” comment. The person who writes this comment insists that the author and all others of his generation are clearly terrible parents if their kids are this bad/picky/tantrum-prone, because Kids Never Used to Act This Way.
I suspect this breed of commenter believes that no child in history threw a temper tantrum prior to 1981, when MTV was invented. Society has just gone downhill ever since.
The second type of comment is less grumpy and more well-meaning than the first, but just as misguided. This commenter deduces from one lighthearted post that the author’s child probably has Sensory Processing Disorder, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, or any number of other chemical/psychological/neurological issues.
I’m not, of course, discounting the validity of these things. I have a daughter with ASD and a son who’s sensitive to textures, tastes and sounds. They are real issues. But the point is, I can’t tell you that YOUR kid might have autism based on one blog post that was meant to be funny. Sometimes kids just don’t like tags on their shirts and they don’t need a diagnosis for it.
People also do this all the time with The Honest Toddler, a side-splittingly, tear-inducingly hilarious blog written from the perspective of a three-year-old. After almost every post you’ll find one comment along the lines of, “Is this supposed to be funny?! OMG this kid’s parents need to get him some serious psychological help!!!”
Both Commenter #1 and Commenter #2 have the same problem: they are completely lacking a sense of humour. Therefore they are not to be trusted.
Raising kids is frustrating and maddening and exhausting. Yes, it’s wonderful too, and I love my children very much. But honestly: spend one day with a three-year-old and tell me they are not the most stubborn and nonsensical people on earth.
We cope with this by laughing. It is our only recourse. If you are a parent, you absolutely must have a sense of humour. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and your children. You should be able to chuckle in a commiserating way along with other parents when they share their own absurd power struggles with their offspring.
If these parents are your friends, you can possibly, with their permission, offer your two cents’ worth. But for heaven’s sake, people should be able to read a story on someone’s blog without feeling like they have to tut-tut about bad behaviour or weigh in with their expertise, of either the philosophical or medical variety.*
In this 21st-century era of raising kids, I think our problem is not a decline in parental abilities but a rise in the number of armchair critics and “experts.” There’s always someone ready to tell you you’re doing it wrong. But if we can’t loosen up and laugh, it’s not the guy cracking jokes we should be worried about.
*For the record, I’m not complaining about my own commenters. You all are thoughtful and lovely.