I’ve become a parent in the age of pitchfork parenting. Every accident and mishap is someone’s “fault.” People join the hunt, pitchforks in hand, to expose parental insufficiency, and tout how “I would never.” In a time of reflection I stumbled on a key reason this cultural phenomenon occurs.
As for myself, I’m going to leave my manure fork in my own barn because I’ve made parenting mistakes, even dumb ones that could have put my children’s lives in danger. It wasn’t because I didn’t care enough. I think anybody who has seen me with my children knows I care about their well-being far more than my own.
I’m a walking danger radar. Eyes and ears open, scouting out the terrain for my little danger magnets, trying to decipher the fine line between allowing them to explore and take appropriate risks and “too far.” The first things they gravitate towards are the sharpest objects and the highest places to climb. Bonus points if the scenario includes both. Despite all my efforts, the fact remains, I am fallible. I am human.
Every time I realize my own insufficiency I thank Jesus for his protection and provision. Immediately after that sentence, I thank the Lord my mistake was not aired to the social media world so the public at large could shame me for being an imperfect parent.
I might be tempted to judge the mom whose child climbed into the gorilla enclosure if my daughter was an only child. It would take her three days to climb in there. My five-year-old son, however, climbed six feet straight up a palm tree at a crowded outdoor shopping center in the time it took me to glance behind me to make sure the rest of our group saw me waiting. I can imagine the social media headlines now: “Child Falls From Palm Tree At Disney Springs Shopping Center, Negligent Parenting To Blame.” (And of course below it would be an article on the projected cost of Disney’s palm tree removal and relocation project)
My mom and I were discussing the phenomenon of pitchfork parenting. How do people have the gall to vilify parents who have suffered tragic loss and trauma on what was supposed to be a beautiful memory in the making? The callous 20/20 Hindsight Brigade chucks stones from behind screens that anonymously protects them from return volley.
Most of us realize social media allows us to emotionally detach from the scenario while providing the opportunity interact. If pitchfork wielders had seen the trauma and the heartbroken faces of parents that had just lost a child, they would muster human decency and offer criticism-free condolences. They would see their own child’s face in the tear-stained photograph held in a trembling hand instead of passing judgment on partial information.
Driving the judgmental comments, is our societal climate of preventative measures and blame. There is such comfort in blame. If the accident is deemed preventable, then we can convince ourselves for another day that our own children are safe from all harm as long as our parenting is good enough.
As super parents, we have the magical ability to foresee every danger. When called upon, without a doubt, we could wrestle alligators, sharks, gorillas, and catch flying bullets with bare hands. The victorious parent flashes the polished badge of pride in their own ability: their safe children. (I’m not being figurative here. I actually read comments regarding the tragic alligator attack in Disney in which people said, “My husband wouldn’t have let that alligator take our child!” What?! Really now…. I read it a few times to make sure my eyes weren’t fooling me. Then I closed the window and stepped away from the internet.)
Might we, as a village of parents, cease to hide behind blame and acknowledge that sometimes terrible things happen, beyond the vice grip of our control? That we cannot make enough rules and legislation to make sure bad things never happen? Nope. That might shake us clean off our high horses, and we’d be too afraid to leave the house again.
It is amazing that the parents that receive so much public judgment are the ones who are taking their children to the zoo, Disney World, and those that share their vulnerable moment in order to prevent other parents from going through similar accidents. Where is all the righteous anger for the children left alone for days, whose “parents” have sold their food stamps for drug money instead of using them to feed their children? Is it the lack of a big media story riling the masses?
Not that I advocate turning pitchforks on anyone as a solution, I just find it strange how true neglect is so overlooked. Society is blamed, the system is blamed, but not the individual parent. On the other hand, a parent who lets their child wade hand-in-hand near a “No Swimming” sign…the world is blasted with opinions on that parent. Such an odd inconsistency.
I will always do my best to make wise decisions for my children, but I am not omniscient. In place of my illusion of control, I will embrace that every day might be my or my children’s last, and therefore will do my best to have meaningful days full of adventure. I will recognize that a virtual world with zero risk is far more dangerous to my growing children than a world in which they can fall. I commit to understand the fallibility of others, and will look for avenues to assist instead of criticize.
What about you?