Dear Moms of the Internet,
It is almost 2016, and I'm hoping we can make a collective resolution for the coming year. It might sound a little nutty, but how about if we all stop being so offended by everything? Maybe we could all just calm down a little. Because to be honest, I cannot keep up with all the things that I am not supposed to say to other mothers and all the things that I am supposed to be offended by. It's exhausting.
For example, I have four children -- a tween and three teens. Thanks to the Internet, I now know that I should have been offended all of those years when they were little, and seemingly kind strangers would ask, "Are they all yours?" Funny, I thought I sometimes detected a note of admiration, even wonder, in the voices of the people smiling down at my kids. But that's only because back then I didn't have the benefit of social media to instruct me. What a fool I was. Those people were actually being snide and judgmental, and I didn't even see it.
And then there are all those times people said malicious things to me like, "You've sure got your hands full." How dare they! Sure, I was standing in the Target checkout line simultaneously fishing my grocery list out of the baby's mouth, wiping my toddler's nose, listening to my 5-year-old sing "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" and explaining to my 8-year-old for the 900th time why I was not going to buy Lunchables. But that's no reason to accuse me of bad parenting or to imply that my children are brats.
Of course, I have been guilty of gross insensitivity myself. I once referred to my 2-year-old son as "all boy." In my defense, he was waving his penis around singing his pee-pee song... Anyway, I also once had the gall to ask an expectant mother if she was planning to breastfeed. I just wanted to offer some advice. After all, I did nurse four babies. But that question was clearly risky and way out of bounds. What if she was planning to bottle-feed? What if my simple question caused her to second-guess her choice or to feel inadequate? What if I was micro-aggressive without even knowing it? Then there's the time I told a woman that she would never regret staying home with her kids. Was I inadvertently suggesting that she was not capable of making a meaningful contribution to the paid workforce? I'm a monster!
At least, I was a monster, until I got smart and started keeping a list of what NEVER to say to...
- moms of just one kid
- moms with lots of kids
- moms of all boy
- moms of all girls
- moms of twins
- homeschooling moms
- older moms
- younger moms
- moms who work
- moms who stay home
- moms who breastfeed
- moms who bottle-feed
- moms whose children have special dietary needs
- moms whose kids eat junk food
- moms whose kids are "gifted"
- moms whose kids are average
- tattooed moms
- crunchy moms
- moms who have dogs
- moms who have cats
- moms who blog (definitely DO NOT offend moms who blog)
If I paid closer attention to social media, I am sure I could add to this list daily. But what I want to do in 2016 -- what I am suggesting we all do -- is throw out the list.
This might sound radical, but what if we all tried to assume the best about people -- maybe just for a year, to see if we like it? What if, when we hear an insensitive comment, instead of flying into a rage and launching our wounded feelings into cyberspace, we consider that maybe we are being a tad oversensitive? Or if we find a comment really and truly is insensitive, what if we assume it's just thoughtlessness or carelessness and not a direct attack on us or our children? What if once in a while we remembered that nice, decent people sometimes say stupid things?
As someone who has occasionally been known to put her foot in her mouth, it would be a HUGE relief to me to start the new year without the fear that with each new misspeak I risk incurring the wrath of Internet moms everywhere.
Of course, it's true. Sometimes people's comments aren't innocent or just insensitive. Sometimes people are downright mean. In 2016, let's ignore them. Let's write and talk and post and blog about the kind people and the helpful people. Let's talk about how funny our kids are or how challenging they are. Let's talk about how hard and wonderful and scary it is to watch them grow up. I want to read more about the real struggles we share as moms, and less about the zillion different ways we tick each other off. In the new year, when I read blogs and articles and scroll through my social media, I want to laugh and cry and feel connected. I don't want to feel outraged or offended anymore. I need a break from that. I think we could all use a break from that.
So, what do you say, Moms of the Internet? Can we make 2016 The Year of Not Being So Offended By Everything?
I'll start. When I read the comments on this post, I will assume that everyone who says my idea is stupid means that in the kindest, most encouraging way possible.