“Don’t talk to your kids unless you are loving them.”
That quote by Susan at Love Hurts keeps running through my head juxtaposed against the picture that Kevin Jones posted of his daughter on Facebook. According to his post, Kevin Jones learned that his 10 year old daughter had acquired some social media accounts, was lying about her age and was dating a boy, all without her permission. In response, he dressed her in an air-brushed shirt that read, “I’m 10 Years Old” on the front and “5th Grader” on the back and posted her from all angles on Facebook, with an update letting the public know that this was her punishment and that she was 5’9″ at 10 years old.
The post went viral, passed around on Facebook and re-tweeted, which is how I found out about it. Most of the responses were positive, praising the father for his work. Randy Moneymaker Mills wrote,”It’s better than a shot gun or a grandchild. Keep up the good work. Other dads and moms should learn something from this.”
Before Nana, I don’t know if I would have thought much about this. It’s definitely not the first time I’ve seen instances of public parenting. A couple of years ago there was a lot of hub-hub about the father who videotaped himself spanking his two daughters that had posted YouTube videos of themselves twerking.
I grew up with public instances of parenting. I remember mothers showing up at elementary school after numerous calls from the teacher and whipping their children in the coat closets, upset about having to take off from their job to come see about them. I used to see children embarrassed by their parents in grocery stores, in church hallways, on the street corner in front of friends, at the mall.
You were punished right at the scene of the crime and being a public spectacle was part of the punishment. Parents that did the most in front of other folks were applauded, similar to the response that Kevin Jones received. If you embarrassed your parents by getting in trouble, the parent had to right to embarrass you back exponentially. Plus, it was almost a guarantee that your children wouldn’t do THAT again.
Except it wasn’t. Because those same children that were whooped in the hall closet were cutting up in class the next week, kids that were dragged off the corner by their mother in curlers and house shoes were back outside after the street lights came on, and girls who got exposed by their fathers for talking to boys still did it, they just got smarter about it.
I find myself being more stressed when Nana misbehaves in public, not just because she didn’t respond to my request, but because of what her behavior might say about me as a parent. People might think that I don’t have control over my child, or that she doesn’t respect me, or that I always allow her to misbehave. Since I’m really feeling vulnerable about being a good mother in that moment, I take her behavior personally. My response is usually more harsh than normal. I might raise my voice wanting those around me to hear that I disapprove of her behavior. In reality though, I’m not at my best, nor my most loving, when I feel exposed in my parenting.
That’s how I see this story of Jones and his daughter. Perhaps he was scared of what could happen to his ten-year-old daughter when talking to older boys or angry that his child defied his rules. Regardless of the reason, ego or fear, he basically called his daughter a #fasttailedgirl in front of the entire world, something that will live on forever on the internet.
Contrary to popular opinion, this wasn’t good parenting, it was expedient parenting. It was much easier to embarrass his daughter publicly than to take the amount of concentrated time to focus on a child 10 years old but taller than most grown women and possibly dealing with body and mood changes due to early puberty. It takes much less time to post pictures on the internet than to have conversations with her about her changing body, listen to her, provide safe spaces for her to explore social media or interactions with the opposite sex with parental guidance and oversight.
As a new parent, I’m constantly looking at instances in parenting, weighing them for legitimacy, determining which ones should be incorporated into our lives. The situation with Jones and his daughter, and in retrospect, most instances of public parenting, are practices that I might skip. Because there is always the possibility that ego or fear may override the love and concern that was intended.