I was stalking myself on the internet yesterday and discovered that this post I wrote for The Mid had gotten shared by Scary Mommy on its Facebook page a few weeks ago. At first I was pleasantly shocked. It had gotten several thousand likes and I was honored that they chose to feature my piece. But then I made a terrible mistake. I read the comments.
I started this blog as a creative outlet. My job as a lawyer can be creative, but in a more formulaic way. My time with the kids can be creative, but in an arts & crafts sort of way. Being able to write was a way to be creative in my own way. After sharing my early posts with a few of my friends, I decided to share it with my Facebook world. And then after writing a few pieces I thought would be good fits with other outlets, I started to get published outside my blog. It happened pretty quickly and organically. I’ve been thrilled and humbled by the welcome reception I have gotten so far. It honestly never occurred to me that what I wrote would offend some people, although perhaps it should have.
The article I wrote that spurred “the trolls,” as they are affectionately called online, I did not mean to be offensive. The article is about the comments that I receive daily as a parent when I am out and about with my three children. I am very rarely offended by them. Most of the time I see the comments as people’s attempts to connect with me and my young family. I don’t assign any ill-will to them at all. But every so often, when I’ve been out with three small children and at least one of them has been tantruming for some major portion of it, the comments from strangers do not feel welcome. I’m not upset by them, I understand them, but they can be sort of amusingly frustrating. This post was – not quite a satire – but an extreme depiction of this mild frustration. If I had said how I usually feel 99 percent of the time, it would not have been a very funny post. But okay, I get it. If you want to call me sensitive or snarky or whatever else because of it, then this isn’t your type of humor and that’s fine.
The comments that bothered me were the ones about #6 – “Our children are having a disagreement at the playground. I am not ignoring this. I can see that your daughter and my daughter both want to use the slide at the same time. However, I’m pretty sure this is something they can work out without our intervention.” Some comments on this were offensive. That I was lazy or letting my child bully others or that a two-year old was incapable of working through this sort of thing.
So I am not even going to get into the offensive judgments about me personally there. I am confident enough in my parenting to know that the person they are envisioning is not me. My (then) two-year old is not a bully. If she were to bully another child, I would immediately step in, we would have a discussion about that sort of behavior and more than likely we would be leaving the playground. I do not let my child go running around like a feral animal at the playground.
But to the larger point that “toddlers are not able to ‘work it out’ on their own.” (Quoting there.) I so, so strongly disagree with that. Here is the situation that I am talking about. My daughter and another child reach the slide at the same time. Both stare at each other with one hand on the slide. Either through words or through eye contact, they come to some resolution about who gets to use the slide first. 90 percent of the time this works. Ten percent of the time it doesn’t – and I would intervene. But I really strongly believe that intercepting both of them the second they reach the slide and admonishing your child to “share” the slide or whatever you think the resolution should be is not the right call. Two year olds should absolutely be able to work things out on their own. If they can’t, then they need to be able to start practicing. And what better place to practice than at the playground? As long as they are working through interactions safely, I feel no need to immediately intervene. That doesn’t mean that I am “sitting on a bench reading a book” or “playing games on my phone” or sitting there “with my headphones on.” That means that I trust my child. And that I am comfortable giving her space to work through minor conflicts.
This troll experience has been eye-opening for me. What I have learned first and foremost is that I do not want to read the comments to pieces that are published on places other than this blog. I was perfectly fine for those two weeks after Scary Mommy shared that post and before I realized they had done so. Reading those comments makes me upset (I know that probably makes me sensitive). But it has also made me think more about the sorts of pieces that I want to publish. I haven’t come to any decisions on that, but it has made me think about it.
If you have had any experience with trolls, I would love to hear how you deal with them – either internally or practically.