In case you missed it, a YouTube video (below) made the rounds this week on TV programs like the TODAY show and Ellen of – as you may have guessed by the headline – a dog calming a crying baby. The video is short and funny, as most viral hits are, and so posting it seemed innocuous to Caroline, mother of Eliza (human child), age 2, and Burgess (dog child), age 5, pictured at left.
But Caroline says her YouTube stardom (and the negative feedback that followed) may cost her thousands of dollars in therapy. Why?
Caroline, who asked to remain anonymous, explains in a private journal entry on the matter (that she’s allowed me to reprint here) that a brief stint of attention on the Internet can have a lasting impact on a person’s psyche. Watch the video in question first, then read Caroline’s account of what happened after the clip went viral and doubt about her ability to parent rolled in.
After a month of back and forth with my brother-in-law (who seems to think he’s an Internet promotions guru), I finally caved and allowed him to post a video that I took of my dog and baby on YouTube. He claimed it would “go viral.” I claimed nobody would care.
After taping it, I originally sent it to my parents, bother, and in-laws as well as a few close friends who might think it was funny – the normal protocol these days after I take a funny, cute, silly, bare-butt, picture of my child. They usually reply that it’s cute and we all move on, basking in the happiness of knowing that my daughter is growing up and doing all the “normal kid things.” I sent this video off with the same idea – that my parents, in-laws and friends would find it relatively funny and chalk it up as another quotidian moment in our often chaotic household of two working parents, one dirty and destructive dog, and one very busy toddler. And I got the response I was expecting. Everybody thought it was cute. Done. Except for my brother-in-law. Not done.
My brother-in-law was convinced that this video was going to be an Internet sensation the likes of “Charlie Bit my Finger” and “Baby Laughing Hysterically at Ripping Paper.” I don’t even laugh at it anymore. This leads me to my first questions for the new therapist I need: Am I taking life so seriously that I am completely out of touch with how funny my life can be? Do I need to take a big step back and try to enjoy and embrace the chaos a little more?
Within three days of being posted on YouTube, the video started getting some major attention. The Ellen show, Good Morning America, Today.com, the actual Today Show, and a Japanese show of some sort (I went to the website, but it’s hard to say what’s really going on there as it’s all in Japanese. Let’s hope Mr. Shimura’s Zoo is a friendly Funniest Home Videos–type show and not a total freak show or some strange dog-porn site), they all wanted our video. I wondered why, so I returned to YouTube to watch it a few more times, figuring that it would elicit some response in me … and then I did a very bad thing. I read people’s comments under the video. Let the therapy sessions commence!
On the whole, people said very positive, wonderful things about my dog and child. They saw it like I did, as a normal scene of a 2-year-old’s tantrum and a funny 20 seconds of a dog who’s fed up with the screaming. But then I found the Internet crazies. People criticized the fact that we bought what appeared to be a “pure bred spaniel of some sort.” Oh God. I knew we should have adopted! Where’s the number for that pet shelter? People criticized the quality of my video because it was shaky – well yes, I was laughing while recording, so it was a bit shaky. Valid point. I also took it on my cell phone – not professional quality, for sure, but seemed to do the job it was intended for, right? And then the comment that dropped like a BOMB:
“baby cries, mom does nothing.”
Killer. First I was angry – clearly this person didn’t have kids or they would know that coddling your child isn’t the answer to stopping every tantrum a 2-year-old has. I’ll let this roll off my shoulders… wait… people think I’m a bad mom after watching this? Hold the Internet presses. We’re shutting down. No more video. No shows, no news reports. What if social services calls and says I’m raising my child incorrectly? Can I possibly defend myself? After all, I did let her lie there crying for 20 whole seconds. Worst mother of the year award, here I come to collect.
And worse still, I began imagining Eliza at 16, a wild-child incarnate, Lindsay Lohan wanna-be. This horrible fate began to come true when she grabbed my designer purse, put her sunglasses on, and posed on the steps as we headed for school on Monday. Her fate was sealed for sure. I ruined my child. More therapy, please!
My middle school head (I’m a middle school teacher) asked to show the video in our Monday Morning Meeting. What fun – the kids will get a kick out of it, she said. All those lessons about Internet safety and thinking twice before posting personal things on the Internet? Out the window when it was one of our own, apparently. What kind of role model for my students was I today? Surely not a great one. Crap. OK, turn this into a “teachable moment,” that’s the way to go, right? Ugh, more therapy.
I’m still wondering if this was the right decision for my family and more-importantly, my child. I suppose she’ll be in therapy, too, complaining that her “awful stage mother” forced her into the public eye too early. She’ll never get married, fall victim to drugs and alcohol at an early age, and peak so early that she’ll decide not to graduate from high school and run to Vegas to be “in a show.”
Where’s the number for that therapist? I think I’m going to need a few sessions…