Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Put Your Name On It

Dude, I totally received my first piece of anonymous hate mail today. While this might not be the reaction sought by the author, I was completely psyched! The intrigue, the insults, the whisky-tango-foxtrot, it was just so surreal.

As the writers chose not to reveal who they are, I will use this very public forum to retort. But first, if you haven't read it, take a moment to go read It's Always Sunny on Lockridge in the Jan/Feb issue of the SoRo Circle here. I'll wait for you.

We all back together? Let's go. The letter, complete with bold and italics, will be in black. My commentary and response, will be bracketed in pink, cause I love that color.

Katie,

I read your article in the SoRo Circle and I think your characterization of yourself as a "Bad Mom" is incomplete. You're also an irresponsible, lazy mom. [Are you seriously opening with name calling? BTW, you forgot ugly and disrespectful.] Teaching "self-reliance" is how we prepare kids for the world. Allowing them increased freedom and responsibility is how that happens. However, you are misguided if you think your particular "free-range" style of parenting is the supreme way [I never used that word, that's your inference] to accomplish this and more mainstream approaches are "moronic." [I didn't call more mainstream approaches moronic, I said most, not all, baby proofing is moronic. I'll stand by that one.]

Your mentality is an excuse to absolve yourself of your responsibilities. For example, how many times was the pool closed because of your "free-range" potty training? [Well looky here! A Roanoke Country Club member. The answer is ZERO. We closed the pool once, five freaking years ago, because E's swim diaper had a blowout while I was sitting right next to him. Do we call that free-range or a really bad day for which no one should be punished?] How often did the staff get your kids' food, toys, etc., while you read or drank beer? [The answer is exactly the same number of times I helped other people's kids when they couldn't reach the water or ketchup. It takes a village.] You weren't teaching anything except to expect someone other than mom to help. It's hard to comprehend that you consider all three of your kids falling down the stairs a normal part of learning how to walk. [It taught them to respect the stairs. I'm standing by it.]

Do you really think that because you drive a Suburban in the "hood" you're immune to accidents? [Umm, never said that. I merely thought that kids in a giant car, complete with seat belts didn't need four point restraints at age 10.]  It wouldn't be "Sunny on Lockridge" if something happened to your kids because you didn't provide them with age appropriate boundaries, supervision and guidance. Don't forget they also learn from example. [Yeppers. And my example is to never leave the driveway without seat belts on.]

You probably think I'm one another one of those "snarky" moms who parents with "out of control paranoia". [sic] I might even dare to give you the "LOOK" [I'm sure you already have.] when you spew your parenting practices. My guess is that after reading this you'll think I still wipe my kid's [sic] butts, "peel their grapes", [sic and c'mon - peeling grapes is insanity personified] and "gasp", [sic] even hire a babysitter. [I never said others couldn't use a babysitter. Sweet baby Jesus, If Eion were the oldest, there is no way in hell I would leave him in charge of anyone, including himself. I was commenting on someone else's reaction to MY decision not to use a babysitter.] I teach my kids to be responsible and independent but not at the risk of their well-being. Think whatever you want about me, I don't care because I know I am a better parent than you and I am not the laughing-stock for being ridiculous. [Soooo, you don't like me being judgmental but you are deeming my kids as having their well-being at risk? Further, declaring yourself as a better parent then me. I'm am pretty damn sure I didn't say I was better than anyone, just different. And if people are laughing? Good. It was a humorous piece, though that seems to have been lost on you.]

If you think raising "free-range kids" is so great you could have written a persuasive piece describing the concept, your experiences and the benefits according to you. But instead you chose to write, with unbelievable arrogance [I'll give you that one. I am routinely arrogant. Everyone knows it.] and gross sarcasm, an article that was an antagonistic, smarmy [point again to the writer, I really appreciate the use of smarmy, it is a completely underutilized word] rant in which you judged, criticized and ridiculed the typical mom (and others, ex. Police) [Hey-wasn't faulting the PoPo for having the car seat checks, just said I didn't want to go.] to justify the way you parent and insult those who disagree. This leads me to believe you used the SoRo Circle to let Roanoke know that what you think is superior and say screw you to the rest of us. [If you knew me better, you'd know that if I wanted to say screw you, I would do it in a much more direct fashion. This was nothing of the sort.]

This is the most important part. Here's what you need to understand. Your parenting preference is not what is offensive. What's offensive is that the purpose of your article was to be insulting and condescending to moms who parent in a more traditional way and who you resent for questioning your beliefs. [Except you are 150% wrong. I was relaying, in what I meant to be a humorous way, how I felt I was on the outside of parenting and how the free-range style made me realize I am not alone.] Use whatever style of parenting you want but you need to realize that unorthodox methods in any arena are often questioned. You can't handle that or the "torpedoes" you damn. [READ: If you dare to be different, we can say whatever the hell we want about you. But if you open your mouth and suggest that we just might not be right, get ready for the anonymous letters about how you are LAZY and SMARMY and] You are so obnoxious. [Seriously, again with the name calling? Not to mention, I'll totally own that one. I never claimed to be anything otherwise.]

From, Kenny's Parents [The cowards who can't offer criticism with their names attached.]

{end of anonymous, no return address letter}

So y'all, here's the thing. I am sarcastic, sometimes (always) obnoxious, and I am sure I go too far, all the damn time. But what my article was all about, which I would have been happy to explain privately if given the chance, was about my own parenting experience that has been, admittedly, different from the norm. I did not attack the moms who gave me the LOOK over the years. But when I read about free-range parenting, it spoke to me and I wanted to share it, albeit in my own irreverent way.

To my hate mail writer, you need to know a couple of things. One, I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks of me. If your letter was designed to make me feel bad, it failed. Two, most people have told me I'm hilarious. So lighten the fuck up. Three, put your name on it. Be a man, or a woman, and put your name on it.

2 comments:

  1. Okay, I'll put my name on it, although I don't consider this hate mail, per se. My husband forwarded me your article because we both get frustrated with "superparents" who are suckers for today's fear-based news reports, and are running amok because they don't know whether or not they should follow some recent hotly-disputed parenting trend (are crib bumpers in or out?) but are sure to take the time to look down on those who will follow their own common sense. We believe that many - not all, but many - parental reactions to the Too Much Information syndrome today instill fear in children and inhibit their use of common sense - will they be able to make basic life decisions without using Google on their smart phones as adults? Children are dependent on their parents, but is teaching this dependence always for the child's best interests, or for the parent to feel needed and wanted? So I naturally tend toward the empowering "I'm sure you can figure it out yourself" and the disengaged "a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine" type of responses.

    On the other hand, I can see how someone who pays attention to things like the CDC recommendations for children under 13 in front car seats (mostly due to airbags not being designed for little ones) or Virginia Department of Social Services guidelines for leaving children in the care of other children (10 is generally pushing it for alone self-care) can feel a bit smacked in the face by the tone of your article. I understand better from reading your post above that it might have intended to include tones of sarcasm, obnoxiousness, and irreverence (to paraphrase your words). As I've lost my only brother to a car crash in which best safety practices were not followed (and he might be alive if they were), and I've represented children in family court proceedings who were taken from their parents because they had too much responsibility in caring for sibling (a teenager caring for one school-aged child), these are things I am more wary about than, say, helping a child off a bar stool. However, I'm sure that there are parents whose children fell down the stairs resulting in permanent injury, and parents whose children drowned in the bathtub, or even parents of children who died of SIDS when the baby rolled from back to front who are beating themselves up every single day for something they hold themselves responsible for which took the life of their beloved child, and might not read this the way you intended it.

    Personally, I'm not going to judge you with regard to what you've written, although I'm sure that many others - who wish they could live a life by their own standards as opposed to making decisions based on what others will think or say - will. Goodness knows I'm judged regularly by people who don't approve of my own life path so I don't want to inflict that on anyone else. The odds are that nothing bad will happen to your children if you leave them home alone while you run an errand or let them play in the street or ride in the front seat of the car. The odds are nothing bad will happen if you drive home after a few shots of whisky, either, or drive your car just a little further with that "empty" gas tank light flashing. But if something bad DOES happen, most people want to be able to say they took every reasonable precaution to have avoided it (and that word "reasonable" is where people get screwed up these days). Hopefully, if the odds aren't in your favor, you won't be one of those parents who says it just happened and there wasn't anything you could have done about it.

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  2. Well, here's my vote for "free-range" parenting. Both my girls have thrived because of it, and are confident, reasonable, articulate and courteous young women (not to mentioned 4.0 students [unweighted, of course]). They have learned boundaries by trial and error, and are far more responsible than their peers, to be sure. I've seen all the "helicopter parents" over the years, and as any college admissions person will tell you, that type of parenting yields some of the most inept and needy kids entering the higher education system today. As I'm fond of saying, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" so I hope for your kids' sake, you lighten up several dozen notches, Kristen. Lord knows this world needs a little less of what you're bringing to the table. Have a lovely day!

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