Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When The Internet Calls You Names

In case this is the first post you are reading- I subscribe, at least partially, to multiple controversial parenting philosophies.  This makes me (along with everyone else who reads the internet with an opinion) an anonymous target. And yes, sometimes it hurts- and not just in the way that stupid hurts. 

One of the crappiest things about parenting in this era of the internet (which has a LOT of benefits) is that you cannot realistically shield yourself from the plethora of anonymous voices out there who, no matter what you choose to do or not to do, no matter whether you follow the mainstream or the beat of a distant drummer, they will call you names. They will call you ignorant, naive, foolish, irresponsible, and even abusive. And that can cut deep.

You would think I would be accustomed to web-based vitriol directed towards those groups with whom I count myself, since I have been very politically involved and opinionated since at least middle school. I grew up noticing the political slant in subtly political stories and recognizing when my views were being called names. And sometimes it infuriated me, and sometimes I took it a little personally, but as I grew up I found that I took it personally less and less frequently. I knew how "the other side" perceived my views and how they categorized my intellect, compassion, and soul. And I could live with that.

But with parenting, its different. When people attack my political views my vulnerable part turns off- it doesn't have to be personal. But when people attack my religion, and when people attack my parenting, it seems to hit the same soft spot. The main difference is that with religion you will almost always have that moral majority expressing their disgust with those who openly attack others for their religious views- whatever they are. You don't need to be Amish to feel a bursting of compassion towards them and anger or frustration towards any anonymous internet commentator who is purposely attacking their religion.  Essentially, you don't have to be with them to be for them. But with these explosive parenting decisions, the philosophy seems to be far more harsh.

Like religion, parenting frequently comes down to faith. No matter how many people begin their accusations of you and your philosophy with phrases like "FACT-- studies x, y & z PROVE..." or "this link to this well-respected organization's website...." or "history shows..." the miserable truth is that there are studies that demonstrate, or suggest, or imply almost anything you want. There are organizations that are well-respected that are wrong, or that change their position on all sorts of topics throughout their existence. And history can be studied and interpreted a whole host of different ways- and many of them are valid. You will have to decide, for example, whether or not to circumcise your son. You can't decide to stay out of it- your son will either be circumcised or intact. And whichever you choose, you will likely have the studies and the documentaries, and the organizations and whatever else, that convinced you to make whichever decision you did. But the fact is, that these are the things that you decided to trust. There are studies and organizations that suggest this procedure carries benefits that make it worthwhile, there are studies and organizations that suggest the opposite. Some will be more convincing to you than others. Those are the ones you have faith in. It will still come down to faith. As scientific as the medical field tries to be, it isn't that simple. A friend of mine recently graduated from her nursing program. As she was studying for her test she posted the following on facebook:
So sick of studying for nursing. Graduation is riding on an exam worth 40% of my grade and this is the crap I have to deal with!Textbook:"dont splint fractured ribs it increases the Risk for ineffective breathing"Teachers:"use splinting to decrease pain of breathing""
Don't tell me that you are either with the science or against the science! It isn't that simple.

I hope as I "grow up in parenting" I will find that I take it personally less and less frequently, but in the meantime, I will try to practice compassion and understanding for others' parenting as I travel this wide opinionated world.