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Internet Parents Lack Civility

A.P. rules! No it doesn't! Yes it does!

Here I go, again. Disagreeing with one of the wonderful and talented bloggers here at Strollerderby. Maybe it’s a gender thing. Or maybe I’m a touch ornery. Or maybe I’m a contrarian. I could be any number of things, when you think about it. Except for two, that is.

100% right or 100% wrong. Allow me to explain.

Recently, Erica Jong opined on attachment parenting. Long story short, she’s not a big fan of attachment parenting. As you can tell by the three links in the previous sentence, Strollerderby had plenty to say about the matter. Recently Taffy Brodesser-Akner chimed in from yet another angle on Salon. Akner wonders why divisive essays such as Jong’s get people so riled up. The ensuing mommy wars which come from these literary lightening bolts are needless. Silly, even.

(For what it’s worth, in the interest of streamlining, I’m going to stick with the terms “mommy” and “mom,” but as my title suggests, this is not a phenomenon which pertains only to moms. Y’all should remember that there are a lot of dads out here opining on various things, too.)

Earlier today, Strollerderby’s Danielle called Akner out. “[Akner] talks about the mommy wars,” writes Danielle, “but I don’t think she necessarily goes about it in the right way with the message she is trying to send.” So why does Danielle feel that Akner went about it the wrong way? Because Akner inserts her own negative assessment of A.P. in a piece that encourages moms to be nicer to each other.

But what Danielle fails to realize is that Akner never says that moms shouldn’t state their opinions. She simply says that moms shouldn’t react with such vitriol to opinions which differ from their own. So when Danielle objects to Akner’s harsh assessment of A.P., she’s missing the point. The point is contained in the paragraph immediately following the one which Danielle actually quoted in her piece — the one which delivered Akner’s harsh assessment of A.P.

In reaction to that harsh assessment, Akner asks her readers:

Does any of this make you angry? Make you cheer? If you feel strongly, ask yourself why you care what I think. You haven’t met me, or my kids. Ask yourself why you’re still even reading this. Because this isn’t an essay about A.P. or the green movement or the Bradley Method or infant massage or anything else. It’s about why asserting opinions on parenting bothers so many people…Why does it outrage us?

You know what I think? I think Akner nailed it. In fact, I liked her piece so much, I actually left her a comment long before I realized I would end up writing about it. Essentially what Akner’s saying is we all have opinions. Especially when it comes to raising children. And those opinions are bound to differ. Given that, she wonders why so many of us get so hateful and attack one another over them. And I’m with her. Which brings me back to the initial point I made. The one about disagreeing with Danielle. How it could mean many things. Except for two.

I’m neither 100% right, nor 100% wrong.

But I am 100% confident that the opinions I express are the right ones for me. If you agree with Danielle and believe that Akner went about her article the wrong way, so be it. I disagree with you. But in disagreeing, I’m not claiming that my opinion should work for you. I’m simply claiming my opinion works best for me. And I have enough confidence in that opinion as well as the others I hold that I’ll never feel threatened by your differing ones. And what’s more, I promise to never be uncivil to you if we ever discuss those differences.

In fact, I invite you to read some of my responses to the Strollerderby comments which took personal jabs at me in case you don’t believe me. You’ll see. I respond to even the most mean-spirited of them with total decency. Which is all that Akner is asking. Total decency.

Not for us to repress our opinions. That’s the last thing any healthy community should ever want — especially one comprised of people who are all trying to be the best parents he or she can be. So let the disagreements continue! And let the debates be fiery ones. But let’s also keep our civility about us. There’s no need to be ugly.

By the way. Do you know who one of my favorite new Strollerderby buddies is? Danielle. We don’t always agree. But I think she’s wonderful. Don’t you?

Photo: MorgueFile

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