I will not put on my rose-colored glasses and pretend that none of this is happening: Mommy Wars, hate crimes, internet stalkers. We say things like “be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” and then we turn around to slap each other in the virtual face. The Mommy Wars wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the veil of the internet that so many hide behind. But the internet can’t protect you from anything, not even yourself. In judging others, we only judge ourselves.
Over at HuffPost Parents, Kim Bongiorno recently shared her five year-old’s diary with the world here. Kim wrote:
Was it a place she wrote what worries her? Is she describing her scary dreams at night? Is she sad I made her and her brother clean the basement for hours this weekend? Does she not understand why sometimes Daddy works late at night or travels for days at a time?
Curiosity got the best of me, and with a heavy, worried heart, I unlocked her diary to see what was inside.
What did I find?
She has been practicing sounding out words and spelling them phonetically by making a long list of all the things she loves, all the things that make her happy.
I found this to be a heart-warming story. A mother watching out for her young daughter, a mother wanting to know what’s going on in her daughter’s brain, a mother who truly cares. A girl with a happy life, who knows what she loves (cold water, gold, friends) and what she wants (flowers, a slime bath) and who she is (weird–aren’t we all?). But Kim received harsh criticism for invading her daughter’s privacy and posting it on the internet. And so I commented:
This fills my heart with happiness. You’re doing a great job, mama. (And hell, if I was suspicious or worried about my daughter at any age, from 5 to 25, I’d dive into the diary if I could get my hands on it. It’s your duty as a parent to protect your child, above all else.)
I received multiple responses to my comment, including but not limited to:
I hope you aren’t a parent and never become one.
May you never have children.
I feel sorry for your daughter if you have one.
I would be lying if I said these words didn’t sting. Perhaps my comment was misunderstood. I will do anything to protect my child, and if I thought I needed to read her diary to do so, I would. But only if I deeply felt I needed to. Kim Bongiorno had “a heavy, worried heart.” (Any parent should know how this feels, how nature makes it impossible not to worry about our little ones until the worry consumes everything inside of us.) What if the secrets were grim? What if an adult inappropriately touched her or another child bullied her? There are some things in this world more important than a five year-old’s privacy, and it is a five year-old’s well-being. If your daughter couldn’t properly wipe away her own excrement and she didn’t want you to do it for her, would you respect her so-called privacy, or would you let her get an infection in her vagina?
As for sharing it with the internet, well, bloggers share a million details about their children. Why knock it now? Because the girl guarded the diary with lock and key. Scroll up to see a picture of my own locked diary from age 6 and tell me if you think I locked this up because I thought it was cool, or because I wanted to hide my thoughts from the world. Nothing in this diary shames me. I would share every page of it, if I thought anyone cared about its contents. By the time this girl gets around to reading everything her mom has ever written about her (if she ever does), the private thoughts of her five year-old self will become irrelevant.
Would anyone besides a mother care about reading a five year-old’s diary? No. If the five year-old has something to hide, which she doesn’t, shouldn’t a parent know about it? Or would it be better to let the abuse continue? (You never know.) Maybe it would it be better to occupy the opposite end of the spectrum and be neglectful?
As small children, we need nothing but the devoted love of our parents. Everything else follows: attention, care, education. We do not need toys or Disneyland or locked diaries. This tiny girl is obviously loved. Her innocence is obviously preserved. She will be okay.
Perhaps the critics feel their privacy breached by the internet every day, and so they are lashing out. Perhaps the critics do not have five year-olds who write of love and wishes, and so they are envious. Perhaps the critics wish they had a parent who cared deeply about them, and so they are hurt.
The critics represent the kind of people who see the bad rather than the good, who take themselves too seriously, who think parenting is about more than loving your child the best way you know how.
This mindset fuels the Mommy Wars.
These critical people believe in rules, they believe there is one right way for a billion unique individuals (their way), they believe that one flick of a wrist will fuck up a child for life. Worst of all, they believe that spewing venom and judgment will bring them power, rather than take it away.