It's been a long time since I used my blog for a rant, but I've been letting this one boil under my skin for too long and it's time to let it out. This is not directed at a single person, though there are parts that probably sound like they are, but rather a group of people who seem to think it's okay to get snarky when a parent complains about having a rough day.
Let me give you a quick word of advice: keep your snark monster to yourself.
Look, I get it. Those of you who are older and "wiser" parents might think you've got lots of great advice for the struggling parent. And sometimes you do give great advice. But there is a time and a place to give advice and there's a time to just keep quiet. Or at least pretend to be sympathetic. Those of you who don't have children might see that complaint and think to yourselves, "What did you think would happen when you had that baby?" Or you might just not realize that sometimes parenting is rough. However, whether you are an older parent, childless, or also a younger parent, it is never okay to get snarky with a struggling parent. Ever. And really, let's extend this to it's just not okay to get snarky with someone who is struggling, no matter how small the struggle may seem to you.
It might be tempting when you see that parent who always seems to complain about her children being out of control to say something about discipline. But unless she asked for your advice, do not give it. The reality is: she probably does discipline her children. But guess what? Children sometimes misbehave no matter what type of discipline program you use. That young parent might still be trying to find what works for her children. And with the sheer number of mommy blogs claiming to have the perfect solution to any parenting problem, finding what works can be surprisingly difficult. Or, she might have a system that normally works great for her children and they're just having a bad day. Don't make her day worse by giving her some snarky comment. She doesn't need to hear, "Oh, it only gets worse" or "Someday you'll miss this" or "Enjoy this while you can" or any other mix of those messages. Oh, and for those who are childless, this is absolutely not the time to say, "This is why I don't have children." What she needs to hear is, "I'm sorry you're having a rough day" or "This too shall pass" or "Hang in there, mama, you're doing fine."
Yesterday, I was that struggling mom. My kiddos were bouncing-off-the-walls crazy. I normally don't like to complain on Facebook, in part because I get really sick of the snark monsters showing up on my posts. But yesterday, they were so awful, I wanted to be able to vent. Even just a little bit and release some of that steam. And I was trying to lighten my own mood and situation by reminding myself that as bad as my children were being in that moment, they aren't always like that. So I let my Facebook friends know that my children were driving me crazy and were about to discover that early bedtime is a thing. The first two comments were what I needed. Another mom was struggling with her rowdy kiddos too and agreed that early bedtime sounded like a great plan. The next let me know that I was doing fine and my kiddos loved me. Trust me, I needed that reminder. Because right then I was questioning that.
Then the next comment implied that early bedtime would only work for as long as my children couldn't tell time and to enjoy being able to do that while I can.
Let me tell you what, I got mad. My day was already in shambles and I was not in a good mood. Having someone imply that I would stoop to tricking my children into thinking it actually was bedtime incensed me further. For one, I'm too dang lazy to change every clock in my house because seriously, do you realize how many clocks I have in my house between appliances, actual clocks, and media devices? For two, my oldest already can tell time, both on a digital display and a regular, twelve-hour clock. So, attempting to tell him, "Oh it's bedtime" isn't going to work. And for three, deceiving my children about the time in an effort to get them to bed early completely misses the point of, "You're in trouble and as punishment, you are now going to bed."
So, I'll be honest, I let my own snark monster out a bit and replied that deception wasn't the aim and my children were going to know they were going to bed early because they were in trouble.
And the commenter didn't get the hint to drop it. No, they had to come back and respond that putting children to bed early more often punishes the parents than the children.
Seriously? At that point, I knew this blog post would be written, but I waited overnight so I could allow at least some of my anger to melt off. Parenting can be punishing at times. I can agree to that. But you have no right whatsoever to question how I discipline my children. None. I don't really care what worked for you or your children because you are not me and your children are not my children. Let me tell you, there was weeping and wailing at my house when the kiddos realized I was serious about them going to bed early. And it was not me weeping and wailing. They were losing out on playtime and they knew it. They were missing out on dessert and they knew it. They were missing out on seeing Daddy get home from the football game. And they knew it. For my children, going to bed early as a punishment works. Do they end up waking earlier because of it? Sometimes yes, this time no. Would that work for every child? No, obviously it wouldn't. Some children would consider going to bed early a treat. And some children just wouldn't care. But for my children, this solution worked. Do I think it will work forever? No, I don't. But I'm not a one-trick parenting pony. I have many tools in my parenting arsenal and this is just one of them. One that I use only when I'm about to completely and totally lose my mind.
There is enough judgement in our world without adding to it. In fact, there is way too much judgement going around in our world. Social media is like a judgement breeding ground. Rather than adding fuel to that raging wildfire by getting snarky, can't you just keep it to yourself? I can't stop you from thinking it, and I honestly wouldn't try to. Your thoughts and opinions are your own and that's fine. However, just because it comes into your head doesn't mean it should come out of your mouth or through your fingers online.
So please, keep your snark monster to yourself. I don't need him running amok on my Facebook. If you need to, go watch Bambi and listen to Thumper. "If you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius