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Shame on Shaming!

Sabrina James

Tonight, my daughter and I sat on the couch and told each other stories. Stories about our life together. We do this sometimes and we both really enjoy it. Kaia’s stories always start with: “One day, when I was [insert age here], I was [doing something exciting] with you. I was happy.” I like to tell her about sweet moments I remember from when she was a baby. She always asks for more stories. More memories. More. After we finished storytelling hour I told her that when I was her age I liked to make books. I would write stories about my life, or a life I wanted, draw pictures and bind the scribbled-on, misspelled pages with stapled cardboard book covers. She told me she wanted to make a book, too. I gave her some paper and she went to work. When she finished each page, she would ask me or my husband, Derek, to help correct her misspelled words.

She made a hilarious typo on the first page that made us literally laugh out loud. Let’s just say the word “parents” was misspelled and the resulting sentence was inappropriate for a children’s book. Between the giggles, I did what any millennial mom would do, I grabbed my iPhone. I had to document, and maybe share, this gaffe! As I aimed the phone at her page, she looked up at me with sad eyes and asked, “Why are you making fun of my book?” The laughter stopped. “No! I am not making fun. I just wanted to take a picture of your first novel!” But I was lying. My intention wasn’t to document the beautiful moment my daughter put a pencil to paper to write the sentence, “When I was a baby, I hoped to have nice parents and I do.” It was to make fun of her mistake. But the lie worked. She smiled and showed me her page, and all the pages that followed, asking me to document each of them. She was so proud. Proud of her work and proud to have a mama who thought her work was genius.

She’s in bed now, asleep. She went to sleep feeling happy and loved and that should make me feel great as a parent. But I don’t. I feel like a failure. I can’t get the thought out of my head that I wanted to exploit her mistake for a few laughs. The pages of her book are carefully stacked on our counter now, “I don’t want them to get messed up, mommy. Tomorrow, I want to make a cover, just like you did when you were my age.” The misspelled word was erased and her daddy helped her write the word correctly. It’s a work of art filled with loving sentences, hilarious stories and colorful drawings of her life. But I just can’t erase the embarrassment I feel for shaming her when I should have been celebrating her.

This “shaming” trend is rampant in our culture. We love exploiting the most vulnerable members of our families for a few laughs. I have enjoyed many a blog post from funny parents who share tales of their kids’ penis questions, potty training accidents, and exploits at preschool. For what? So that our Facebook “friends” and blog followers click "like" and share? I took a few minutes to check out the viral Tumblr site “Dog Shaming.” Maybe yesterday I would have found it funny. Today, I see the same expression in the eyes of those pups that I saw in Kaia; the look of love and trust. It’s the same look I see in the eyes of this 3-year-old girl, whose dad had her hold a sign he wrote (that she's obviously too young to read or understand) with the sole purpose of embarrassing her on the Internet. And she’s looking at the camera with a smile. It breaks my heart. 

We need to stop. I need to stop. We may live in a culture where every moment is captured, shared and commented on (we can thank Mark Zuckerberg for that), and I have no intention of going rogue and shielding my life from the prying eyes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But it will be done respectfully. I want to be the type of person who deserves the look of love and trust that I’m lucky to get every day from a sweet, beautiful and smart little girl named Kaia. Because you know what, she’s right, I am damn proud to be her mom. And that book of hers... it is genius. 

Do YOU think parents share too much in today's social media world? Should we avoid posting stories and pictures of our kids altogether? Or should we just do it in a positive, non-shaming way? Leave a comment and let me know!