I missed the memo about tribes, keyboards, and Parenthood.
So, in my last post, I made a pretty unapologetic pronouncement of my own opinions about vaccinations…and over on my personal Facebook page, it created a little skirmish in what is tiresomely, but accurately described as, The Mommy Wars.
I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I was a little sad, by how it went down.
Given my own feelings about vaccinations, I’ll admit I felt a twinge of smug when I first read this headline: Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind. But once I read the story, my heart broke for this mom. By the cruelest of ironies, her unvaccinated child did have autism. But to me, that wasn’t the sad part of her story. The sad part was that this mom felt, that in ultimately choosing to vaccinate her kids, she would pretty much have to hand in her “crunchy mom” membership card. (And “crunchy mom” is her term…I don’t use it either flatter or denigrate her.)
This reflects part of the experience of modern motherhood, which seems to be increasingly tribal. Instead of just doing what we do as a matter of pragmatism and preference, everything is identity and ideology. We encamp with parents who think like we do. We strap on our baby carriers like body armor and wave our cloth diapers like battle flags. The folly of this was illustrated hilariously and very effectively in this brilliant Similac commercial which showed the various factions getting ready to rumble, until they get a reminder of about what’s really important.
I suppose parents have been judging other parents since we came down from the trees. Most parents I know would say that raising their kids is the most important thing they’re doing and thus it’s natural to get invested in believing that our own parenting choices are right, and if I’m right, then someone who’s doing things differently from me must be wrong. But before the interwebs, all we could do was have coffee klatches and just occasionally gossip about that mom, the one who’s doing everything wrong. But now, with social media in its many forms, parenting has become a 24-hour-news cycle with everything and everybody up for discussion.
Make no mistake, I’m no Luddite who wishes we could go back to the dark ages before the internet. Having such easy access to so much information and communication is mostly a blessing. Mostly. The dark side, of course, is that emojis, though adorable, are no substitute for hearing the tone of someone’s voice, the look in their eyes, and the millions of other little cues that really help us understand each other when we’re talking face to face. Things get lost in translation, and then worse, we tend to get emboldened by the experience of communicating online, and that’s when stuff can really get ugly.
To take a break from the noise and confusion of real parenthood, may I suggest….Parenthood. I’m not sure if it was that outdoor dining room, or maybe it was my insane pencil skirt envy for Julia Braverman, but I really loved Parenthood and really mourned its recent finale. It was a weekly retreat into relationships that seemed very warm and very real. And that’s not to say everything was always rosy in that world…far from it. The show has a very high Kleenex quotient, that’s for sure. If you haven’t watched Parenthood it is definitely binge-watch worthy.
And even if you’re not on Team Braverman, when it comes to this parenting thing, we’re all in the same tribe. Memo received.