There’s nothing like a good viral letter to pit one parent against another.
After posting an open letter on Facebook to her 13-year-old son Aaron about not pitching in around the house, mother Estella Havisham created a firestorm of controversy that resulted in her account being shut down.
What could one mom possibly write that could break the Internet? Havisham didn’t make any wild threats to her young son, nor did she pull any punches either. In the brief letter, the single mom laid down the law, bluntly telling her son that he needed a “lesson in independence.”
Havisham proceeded to bill her teen for all the luxuries he had grown so accustomed to at home, totaling to a whopping $717:
Since you seem to have forgotten you are only 13, and I’m the parent, and that you won’t be controlled, I guess you will need a lesson in independence. Also, as you threw in my face that you are making money now, it will be easier to buy back all the items I bought for you in the past. If you would liek your lamp/light bulbs or access to the internet, you will need to pay your share of costs.
Rent — $430
Electricity — $116
Internet — $21
Food — $150
Also, you will need to empty the trash Mon, Wed, & Friday, as well as sweep and vacuum those days. You will need to keep your bathroom clean weekly, prepare your own meals, and clean up after yourself. If you fail to do so, I will charge you a $30 maid fee for every day I have to do it. If you decide you would rather be my child again, instead of roommate, we can negotiate terms.
It’s no wonder this parenting smackdown went viral — and it’s especially unsurprising that so many parents are divided on how this mother handled her son’s punishment. Just a few weeks after its initial Facebook post, the letter has received more than 160,000 shares and close to 15,000 comments. Havisham has gotten hundreds of “thank you,” “way to go” and “bravo” comments. But she has also received her share of hate, being criticized for publicly disciplining her son and failing to teach him independence in the first place.
One Facebook commenter wrote:
“Seriously? Why is everyone praising your behavior? Stripping his bed and taking his clothes is going too far. You are a bully. You brought that child into this world and you need to provide for him. Food, shelter, clothes and bedding are necessities, not extras.”
What Havisham may not have factored in when she posted the letter, and what likely caused the backlash in the first place, is the culture of public shaming that we’re living in.
Right now, Facebook has a frightening amount of people logging in every day: 1.49 billion active monthly users, to be exact. When you weigh that against the 43.5 million mothers in the U.S. (just a drop in the bucket, really, and that doesn’t even include the dads), it’s safe to assume that almost every parent you know has a Facebook account. Needless to say, when a mom openly shares how she disciplines her child, there are a lot of other moms ready to weigh in with their own opinions.
Havisham isn’t the first parent who decided to use social media as a disciplinary tool. There was the mom who grounded her daughter by changing her Facebook profile pic to a photo with an “x” taped over her daughter’s mouth. Then there was the mom who sold her daughter’s Katy Perry tickets on Facebook after calling the daughter a “spoiled brat.” And there was even the tragic suicide of the 13-year-old girl who jumped off an overpass after her dad shamed her on YouTube.
That’s the thing about publicly disciplining a child on the Internet. The odds are that all of these parents’ hearts were in the right place — Havisham even posted an update to her Facebook page, confirming that she only had her son’s best interests in mind when she wrote the letter — but the second you post something to social media, it quickly takes on a life of its own.
The upside to living in the digital parenting age is that we can share information with other parents and learn from their mistakes. The downside is that all of our parenting choices are under a magnifying glass.
Most of Havisham’s supporters are patting her on the back for having the guts to teach her son a tough life lesson. But what this bold mom may not have realized is that she taught the rest of us a valuable lesson too: If you don’t want your parenting decisions to be judged, don’t post them online.More On