A Photo of Dad and Daughter Sparks DebateMonica Bielanko
A couple weeks ago my husband wrote a piece for Babble Voices that featured some photos of him and our 3-year-old daughter, Violet, sitting on our porch watching the sunset.
They are on our porch swing, laughing together as she looks up adoringly.
The post was put on Babble’s main Facebook page and the comments it received absolutely blew my mind:
Here is the gist:
is that child NAKED???
you got a man with a beer in his hand with his arm around a naked little girl. wtf?
This is wrong!!!
Yuck. Civilized people wear clothes when in the company of others, and children ESPECIALLY should be MADE to wear clothes!! I hope no pedophile is on this page, getting his thrills!! Disgusting!
First of all it IS a bad picture PLUS I would NOT even post a NAKED OR PARTIALLY NAKED picture of MY DAUGHTER on Facebook…too MANY sick minded people out there!
I have found the people that let their kids run around without clothes in front of company are the same ones that have very out of control kids with many issues. They are not animals, they we are civilized, and she should be treated with honor and respect. We are to teach our girls to be decent to protect them from pedophiles.
I was seething. I wrote my own response in the comments which you can click over and read if you’re so inclined because I’m not going to post it here. Whether or not you think the photo is appropriate isn’t the point of this post.
So I wildly tapped out a response comment while Serge, ever the level-headed voice of reason, waited a day and then wrote an eloquent response to the comments over on Dadding.
In Was I Wrong To Post This Picture of My Daughter and Myself On The Internet Serge questions what people are all hot and bothered about and then politely offers his reaction:
I was dazed. I felt pepper-sprayed by the random opinions of complete strangers. I felt violated, not by some freak with a penchant for pictures of summertime kids in their diapers, but rather, by people who had made it their business to completely ignore my actual article in favor of slamming a photo of me and my kid. I know it’s their right to say whatever they want, and that’s fine. But, as a dad who loves his kids more than anything in the universe, I was spinning.
And I’m still spinning, actually.
I mean, who are we now, collectively? Who are we, we parents on the internet, and what are our goals?
What are we aiming to do when we sign on and sign in? And what should we be aiming to do?
His question got me to thinking, what exactly are we parents aiming to do here on the internet? Anymore it feels like we aren’t offering support and engendering a community as we all dog paddle through the rollicking ocean of this thing called parenthood, (God, I need some Dramamine) instead we want to point fingers of shame and then delight in telling each other that we’re doing it wrong.
When Babble put this photo of my son Henry (with binky) on Facebook the finger-pointing hens clucked at me, dementedly pecking out and lobbing comment grenades all about how I’m doing it wrong:
Nasty looking teeth and dependAnce is all a binky does. My kids only had binkys till 3 months old and it was only to develop the sucking they needed to learn properly. And thats what a binky is for, pediatritians will even tell you to get rid ofit by 6mo
Wayyyyy to old for a binky
What the? He’s one. And that was my initial response. Defensiveness and an internal debate on why I’m okay with my 15-month-old having a binky until I realized the debate was unnecessary. I’m comfortable with him still having his binky and that’s all that matters.
But my original inclination to defensiveness in response to unkindly worded judgment is bothersome. It shouldn’t be like that. But it is, I know. You’re going to see a photo and have an opinion about something within the frame. And yet, is offering your two cents really for the person you’re offering advice or is it really for you? A way to feel better about you’re own parenting mistakes? Do you think that I’m not aware of the pros and cons of babies and binkies and it’s your duty to inform me? You can’t think that, can you? After all, I took the photo and proudly posted it on the internet. So tell me, what is the point of those kinds of comments? Are you so sure that your position is the correct one that you simply must casually yet rudely inform others when you think they’re wrong? Is that the kind of community we’re cultivating on parenting sites like Babble? A shrill, finger-pointy tone about whether or not you approve of someone’s parenting choices?
Granted, the binky thing is mild compared to the reaction to my daughter sitting on a porch swing with her dad and, yes, I am tempted to defend that photo to the death and explain why it’s so beautiful and it’s only the perceptions of those viewing that make it ugly but I won’t get into that because, as Serge Bielanko said in his response, “I know enough not to join in certain cyber-conversations. These ladies had latched onto one another. Mob mentality had taken hold.”
You see a dad and his sweet daughter sharing a moment on the porch and you don’t behold the beauty of an excellent dad spending time with his daughter; instead you zero in on the “disgusting nudity” or the beer he happens to be drinking?
You see a cute picture of a baby on the internet and your first response is to point out the perceived parenting mistakes in the photo?
My only thought about that: That’s says a whole lot more about you then it ever says about my husband or myself as parents. I think, in summary, Serge says it best and so I’ll give him the last word:
Every day, anywhere you go in the vast wilds of cyberspace, you can find people who get their kicks out of knocking other people down. I know that and you know that, but that isn’t what I’m getting at here. My question is more streamlined. Because, what I’m wondering is, is it helpful to point out everything?
As parents, are we helping each other when we say to our fellow parents,”You are doing it wrong!”…”You should know better!”…”There is danger in everything!”
Or, is it simply a way to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, to allow our voices to reign supreme, if only for a second or so, if only until the next comment appears?
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You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.