Media & TechnologyParenting Styles

Internet Meme Demolition Derby: Dear Mom on the iPhone,

Real car crashes are frightening experiences to witness. Cars moving at high speed are suddenly brought to a halt by Newtons mischievous laws of motion. Tires squeal as they desperately fight inertia, scrawling their hot black fingerprints across the asphalt.  The impact is louder than you expect, echoing off buildings, followed by the crunch of glass.  Hopefully there aren’t any screams.  But there’s a rush involved. A shot of adrenaline  gets dumped into our bloodstream, hearts leap, breath quickens. Yes, that is unfortunately the plot to the inexplicably Oscar award winning film Crash. But its also the reason folks across the USA flock to the spectacle of Demolition Derby. Safe, legal car crashes brought right to the county fairgrounds. You can even drive in one yourself if you have the gumption.  At the Derby, what was once horrendous is rendered safe, even fun!

That is part of what we try to do here at I.M.D.D.  We want to free the readers imagination, to allow them to envision doing  things to the horrible Internet Memes that infest their Facebook timeline that propriety insists that they not do.  Things that they really, for their own mental and social well being, should not do.  Because no matter how good it might feel, it’s usually a bad idea to tell Grandma to go fuck herself, and shove her busybody unsolicited parenting advice where the sun has not shown in quite some time.  Don’t worry dear traveller, that’s what we are here for.

Dear Mom on the iPhone, 

November of 2012 was when we first saw this stinking pile of  judgmental, sanctimonious dog sh- (WHOA There Tiger! Slow down… pace yourself. You already told Grandma to GFYS in the second paragraph. At this rate you’ll be Godwinning the whole shebang by the end of the page!)

<Ok… gathering myself… finding my happy space>

November of 2012 was when we first saw this meme flutter across our social networks.  Often shared by Grandma, and written in a very grandmotherly voice, we were actually quite surprised to discover the original author at 4 little Fergusons to be a fairly affable young mother of four who writes about “Faith, Family, Food, Photo’s and Fun.”  Perusing her blog casually, one finds some lovely recipes, (in fact I might make Cilantro Lime Chicken Bake this weekend,) some lovely stories about her lovely country family that are all really just lovely.  They are Christians, as you will discover if you click on “Big Picture Parenting” at the top of the page. There the author explains that;

 This page is dedicated to parents out there, trying to raise kids God’s way.  Trying to keep their children IN the world, but not OF it.

From one parent to another, this is a tough job!  Hopefully this page will encourage you, and give you some new ideas or perspectives on raising your family up in a way that pleases God.

Now the Derby really isn’t the time or place to go into a deep philosophical dissection of what appears to be unfortunately fairly mainstream Christian Evangelical parenting techniques. For that kind of diligence we turn to more… shall we say.. diplomatic critics, like Libbey Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism. Here we specialize in Snark and try our best to keep a laser focus on the particular Meme that has fallen into our crosshairs.  So to state it for the record, the fact that the author of 4 little Fergusons comes across as a purity obsessed, corporal punishment addicted, media-phobe had absolutely no influence on how fucking pissed off Dear Mom on the iPhone  made us. The accompanying piece Dear Dad on the Recliner sucks too, for most of the same reasons.

Dear Mom On the iPhone,

I see you over there on the bench, messing on your iPhone.  It feels good to relax a little while your kids have fun in the sunshine, doesn’t it?  You are doing a great job with your kids, you work hard, you teach them manners, have them do their chores.

But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now…..

Listen lady, the number of things that I don’t see right now is pretty fucking big. It’s a Big Big World and it would be impossible for me to keep up on all of it, despite the technological marvel that is my brand new 32 GB iPhone 5S.  Also, I’m a Dad, not a Mom… check out the beard.

Your little girl is spinning round and round, making her dress twirl.  She is such a little beauty queen already, the sun shining behind her hair.  She keeps glancing your way to see if you are watching her.

You aren’t.

Oh, I see… sigh… Yeah, my little girls… Let’s start with the fact that my little girls aren’t likely to be spinning around  making their dresses twirl because as soon as we get to the playground they head straight up that tree over there, as high as they can get.

Also, Beauty Queen?  Seriously? Do we even have to start with how inappropriate the entire concept of Beauty Queens is in this day and age?

Your little boy keeps shouting, “Mom, MOM watch this!”  I see you acknowledge him, barely glancing his way.

He sees that too.  His shoulders slump, but only for a moment, as he finds the next cool thing to do.

OMG I’m a horrible parent!  I’ve disappointed my son by not responding to him every time he yells “Mom/Dad watch this” by leaping to my feet and applauding at his initiative.  Now he’s going to grow up to be an axe murderer, or perhaps worse, an investment banker. Come on lady, do you know how many times a day my kid yells “Watch this?” Dozens of times. At this point I’m just looking up to make sure he doesn’t have a sharp stick in hand nor is he about to leap from a high place. Or perhaps both.  And am I the only one who notices the not so subtle gender discrepancy here? Your daughter, the “Beauty Queen” is twirling her dress in the sun. Your little boy is looking for the next “cool thing to do”.  The female activity is passive and in the end about how others see her “Beauty”.  The male activity is active, in fact it is about personal action, a “cool thing to do”. And the arbiter of cool is easily understood to be the boy, not you or anyone else.  Can anyone imagine how those discrepancies in attitude might translate into discrepancies in treatment down the line?

Now you are pushing your baby in the swing.  She loves it!  Cooing and smiling with every push.  You don’t see her though, do you?  Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing.

 

Talk to her.  Tell her about the clouds, Mommy.  The Creator who made them. Tickle her tummy when she comes near you and enjoy that baby belly laugh that leaves far too quickly.

 

Put your eyes back on your prize…Your kids.

 

OH GOD NO I’M THE WORST PARENT IN HISTORY HERE TAKE MY CELL PHONE AWAY I DON’T DESERVE IT!!!

Show them that they are the priority. Wherever you are, be ALL there.  I am not saying it’s not ok to check in on your phone, but it’s a time-sucker: User Beware!

Oh… that’s OK then. Give me my phone back, that thing’s expensive.

Play time at the park will be over before you know it.

The childhood of your children will be gone before you know it.

They won’t always want to come to the park with you, Mommy.  They won’t always spin and twirl to make their new dress swish, they won’t always call out, “WATCH ME!”

There will come a point when they stop trying, stop calling your name, stop bothering to interrupt your phone time.

Because they know…

You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are.  They see you looking at it at while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime…..

I know that’s not true, Mommy.

I know your heart says differently.

But your kids can’t hear your words, Mommy. Your actions are screaming way too loudly.

 

  May our eyes rest upon those we love, first and foremost, and may everything else fall away in the wonderful, noisy, sticky-fingered glory of it all.

 

“And the Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon, Little Boy Blue and the Man in the ARGLBARGLEBLAHHHHHH!!!!”

Sorry folks, had to kill Harry Chapin with a chainsaw… don’t mind the blood spatters we’ll have someone here to clean up after the session.

Now I’m sure that the author of the above had nothing but good intentions when she cast this paean to the joys of stalking your own children onto the internet winds. In fact she goes into quite a bit of detail in a note appended to the original  as well as in a follow up post that her initial essay was written as a hypothetical! There never really was a Mom in the park with an iPhone (isn’t that what got Janet Cooke fired? And almost Bailey Quarters?) Secondly, her critics are missing the point!

There was no “Mom in the park”, I woke up with a burden to write, and write I did. My job was to obey, not over think, or cast judgement.

I know and understand that there are extenuating circumstances that make situations like a mom on her phone in the park necessary.  I get it, I do!   But guess what, there ARE moms in the park, picking up from preschool, families at a restaurant; ALL missing opportunities to invest face to face time in each other, because they are on the phone for fun, or out of habit!

 

You heard the poor woman. She couldn’t help herself. The muse struck her and she felt compelled to write a trite judgemental screed about how horrid are the people who ignore their children in favor of technology, even if they only largely exist in her imagination.

We’re going to let another GP step into the arena for a minute here… Take it away Melanie…

“Dear Mom on the iPhone, Do you not see the opportunities you’re missing to reinforce harmful gender stereotypes? To quash under your 24-hour hovering shadow any signs of independence or any inkling that the world does not revolve around your children? Isn’t it more important that you act the part of the attentive parent, however much of a faked exhausted zombie attention that becomes, instead of nurturing your own needs so that the attention you pay is meaningful? I mean, it’s not like your kids can tell the difference. Kids are stupid. Especially the female ones. They were created that way by our ancient alien overlords. Who are you to question their wisdom? While we’re at it, how dare you fix the car, work, cook, clean, or do anything that means taking your eyes and attention away from your children for even a moment? Do you realize that when you pay attention to the road while driving, you could be missing the face your child is making JUST FOR YOU. YOU WILL NEVER GET THAT MOMENT BACK, YOU SELFISH WHORE.

Because let’s face it. This post is not at all about neglecting children by doing other things. It’s about judging the value of technology and how we use it, and it (like the recliner one) is about making blanket assumptions that anything we do solely for ourselves is selfish and harmful for our children. Sure, there are people out there who neglect their children through technology, who neglect their entire household from their recliners, but it’s not the technology or the recliner/TV that’s the problem. It’s the person. It’s a pattern with roots that go far beyond the tools they use to reinforce it.”

Thank you Melanie! Not only concise and pointed, but some gratuitous profanity as well!  Good job, mind the folk singer remains as you walk back to your seat.

Let us step back from the rancor for a bit however. Let’s give the author the benefit of the doubt.  She obviously means well in her own way. We may disagree with her religion, or more specifically the parenting choices she makes based on that religion. But it’s obvious that she loves her children. Heck, she loves YOUR children.  She loves ALL THE CHILDREN.  And she is just concerned that the encroachment of technology is interfering with the ability of parents to truly connect and bond with their young ones.  That every minute we spend with our noses in our various devices is a minute that we could be spending with our precious little children. A minute that will disappear forever into the unreachable past if you don’t witness it.  And if you aren’t paying attention to them, then there’s no reason for your precious little children to listen to YOU. And if they aren’t listening to you then…
(from Re: Dear Mom on the iPhone, emphasis mine)

I can be sorry for coming across wrong, but cannot apologize for the intent in which I wrote it. Against these various forms of media, and how easily satan uses those distractions to steal, kill and destroy what we hold dear to us.

That’s right folks… Satan. If you aren’t careful, if you aren’t attentive to your children, if you don’t appreciate these precious Hallmark Moments enough then Satan might use the opportunity presented by your selfish distraction to steal, kill and (somewhat redundantly) destroy them!  And there she loses the benefit of the doubt.  There we have to break down the wall we tried to erect between our snark at her treatise on smartphone etiquette and it’s relationship to quality parenting and the foundations of the authors own beliefs about quality parenting, which she has most kindly provided for us.  These include unwavering obedience from her children, starting in the high chair, moving on to the Rod, to case by case solutions for older children, including public embarrassment in the guise of not being a “pushover parent”.  You police all of your children’s media choices for “Purity”, and plan on policing their sex life until such time as they enter an approved heterosexual married relationship.  Seen in that light Dear Mom on the iPhone transforms from just another well intentioned but misguided Luddite panic about tech into an authoritarian riposte in the duel against supernatural forces for your children’s immortal souls! 

That’s right folks, Satan is after your kids through your iPhone. Evidently there’s an App for That.

I will admit to a certain amount of defensiveness when I first had this meme shared, by my staunchly atheist sister no less.  I’ve been an iPhone user since the release of the 3GS. I love my iPhone. I can’t imagine a world where we don’t have such instant access to information, communication and entertainment literally at our fingertips. My kids will LITERALLY have to imagine such a world, because they’ve been living in the connected world all of their lives.  And yes I get distracted by my phone, be it keeping up with friends on Facebook or Twitter (go ahead and friend me, I’m facebook easy,) or conquering the next battle in Injustice.  And yes I get distracted from my kids by my phone. Heck, distracting me from the Hellions is half the reason I bought the damn thing! I’m a stay at home parent. I see my kids all the fucking time.  I’ve seen the Schmoo twirl. I’ve heard the Peanut sing. I’ve seen every cool thing the Grommet has dug up out of the ground. I both tell and show my kids how much I love them all the time.  You know what else I show them? Respect.  I respect their privacy and I teach them to respect mine. I respect my kids enough not to worry that a moment’s inattention on my part will have disastrous consequences for their future.  I respect my kids enough to be honest with them. They aren’t always going to be the center of my attention. They aren’t always going to be foremost in my mind.  My job may be to love and protect them, raise and nurture them, but they aren’t some project of mine. They are people. Little people with a lot to learn about the world.  But people all the same, with the same right to be treated respectfully as any of the rest of us. Their magic moments are primarily for them, not me.  I have no need to cling to them forever.

Besides, the iPhone has a great camera in it.

We’ll wrap up here, although there’s probably more we could say. Melanie, if you could grab Mr. Chapins legs so we can drag him over onto this tarp? Thanks.  The rest of you go out and have a nice day. Enjoy your kids and your iPhones responsibly.  As always, if you feel the need to wander over to this nice lady’s blog to comment, please be civil. If you feel the need to be rude, well the door to the Derby is always open for your amusement.

Have you come across an Internet Meme about parenting that you think needs to be demolished? Share it in the comments or tweet a link to @blotzphoto or @GroundedParents and we’ll lay the Malachi Crunch on it!.

Featured Image: Garrett County Agricultural Fair
“Monkey Girls”: Courtesy of Blotz Photo Arts
Church Lady Image: Courtesy of the Internet, with apologies to Dana Carvey

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Lou Doench

Lou Doench

Lou Doench is a 48 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at www.flickr.com/photos/blotz/

8 Comments

  1. January 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm —

    Good God. For someone who claims to want to appreciate her children, she’s seriously punishment obsessed.

  2. January 24, 2014 at 12:35 am —

    Amen brother! Cough! Ahem…keep up the awesomeness Lou!

  3. January 24, 2014 at 10:30 am —

    Love this post!
    This meme drove me nuts even before I had kids. I always got caught up in the first section where she describes the twirling daughter and the active son. Based on her description, I’d imagine this little fairy princess daughter twirling endlessly while glancing at her mom over and over to get approval or notice. The son, on the other hand calls out to mom, notices she’s ignoring him and is like “whatevs” as he moves on to something new. That always made me suspect that whoever wrote this had no clue what kind of messed up gender bias she’d internalized over the years, and therefore probably shouldn’t be passing on advice to any new parent.

    • January 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm —

      Reading the rest of her blog, it’s easy to see where she learned her gender bias’. Thou shalt not play Angry Birds is in her Bible somewhere.

  4. January 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm —

    So much of the emphasis there is on appearances – do you *look* invested in your children to an outsider, do your children *look* like they are well behaved. Scary stuff there.

    • January 25, 2014 at 10:00 am —

      Oh, appearances are a huge part of the evangelical subculture that this family represents. Look at her page about discipline where she compares two photos of her family, one chaotic one idyllic. We’d love to see your house go from “THIS” to “This”. I recommend some strolls down Fred Clark’s Slacktivist Blog to get an understanding of how judgemental this subculture is. If your children are acting out or undisciplined it is considered a massive failure on your part.

  5. January 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm —

    I’m probably a very bad mum.
    I’m waiting for the day the little one is old enough so I can send both kids outside to play in the park all by themselves.
    BTW, I DO treasure one memory of my oldest running in the park in a floral dress that was slightly too long, her hair falling out of her ponytail and all of this in the evening sun on a green lawn.
    She was just beautiful. She also didn’t give a fuck about “being beautiful”, she was just running and enjoying herself. The soundtrack was provided by my smartphone…

  6. January 25, 2014 at 11:07 am —

    Reading a few of the posts I’m sorry for the kids.
    The ones about punishment are the worst. I mean, her steps are
    1. Send kid to room
    2. Calm down
    3. Calmly enter the room and beat child (I will not use euphemisms like “swat” “discipline” or even “spank”)
    Wow, fuck.
    I usually do steps 1 and 2, too
    Step 3 is usually “enter the room, offer the kid a hug and talk about what happened”

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