Kids are funny. Their responses are unfiltered by cultural conventions. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. And honestly, if we weren’t allowed to laugh at our kids, none of us would survive parenthood.
Gen-Xers*, in particular, seem to make their way through life by mocking most everything, and parenthood is a target rich environment for mockery. (And I say this as a proud member of Generation X. Well, maybe not proud. We’re really not proud so much as put out.) Sarcasm has always been a part of the human experience, but we’ve made it into a generational calling card.
But it’s one thing to laugh at the absurdities of raising children and quite another to turn your own children into amusement for the masses.The most prevalent example of this is Jimmy Kimmel’s annual Halloween prank where parents send in videos of their kids’ reactions when they’re told mom and dad ate all their candy. Sad and angry children! So funny!
There’s “Reason’s My Son Is Crying” which is basically just capturing the absurdity of children. And broadcasting it for millions of strangers to point and laugh. “Hey, I love you, kid, but you have to admit you’re ridiculous. Why shouldn’t strangers enjoy the fun, too?”
Maybe it’s just the opportunities of technology. Perhaps our great grandparents would have posted humiliating videos with hashtags given the opportunity. But I think technology itself has changed our culture so that we don’t see the boundaries of private spaces and events. I think we have a different expectation of what is appropriate to be shared (namely, anything) than people a few generations back.
But even if we make that decision to share everything for ourselves, what right do we have to make that decision for our kids? In particular, why is it okay to manipulate a situation in order to provoke an amusing (to you) reaction from your kids to make strangers laugh. Or LOL.
And of course, it can backfire. To me, the kids in the Kimmel video are just acting like normal kids. But the parents are jerks. Maybe your kid isn’t crying so much because his cracker broke, but because life is hard and nobody understands him and dangit, he needs a nap. I’ve been there, and I wouldn’t someone posting a picture of my crappy moment on Twitter.
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Among other things, this video shows that this guy is probably a really good dad. His kids are sweet and polite, and I just want to give them big hugs and real presents. But the truth is he was intentionally a jerk to his kids to provoke a reaction that he could then post. He just probably wasn’t expecting this reaction.
We get it. When you’re mean to kids, they have honest, unfiltered, sometimes extreme reactions. They don’t (generally) hide their emotions and say “nice” things like “that’s okay, please ask next time.” Their pain and frustration is amusing. I guess. Only, it’s not really. It’s not healthy to get a kick out of other people’s pain, even if those people are small and pronounce their words funny. Surely we can be better than that.
What say you Gen-Xers? Can we agree to stop being jerks to our children for the purpose of producing entertainment for strangers?
*I’m just guessing most of these parents are Gen-Xers because we’re at the right age for parenting this age of kids, though some may be Millenials, too. Sarcasm and mockery are multi-generational traits. Yay, us!