Once upon a time I joined a car seat group on Facebook. It was a couple of kids ago, and as I recall, I had a question about the straps on my son’s seat, if they should be moved up to the next slot on the chair back. I added a picture, typed out my brief question, and hit the post button.
And behold, the gates of hell opened up and swallowed me into the fiery pit of eternal damnation. At least the moms in the group sure made me feel like that was true.
I wonder if Kim Kardashian is feeling a little bit of that wrath this week?
Over the weekend, she posted a picture of her 18-month-old son, Saint West, strapped into his car seat, sippy cup at the ready (Paw Patrol, we feel your pain Kim). In the photo, the toddler’s seat seems to be installed in a forward facing position.
The mommy wars episode where strangers battle over proper car seat practices and the appropriateness of doling out advice to strangers in Facebook comment sections immediately ensued.
“Get informed, that child needs to be rear facing!”
“STFU and enjoy the picture!”
“It’s illegal to have him forward facing!”
“At least he’s buckled!”
“Turn that baby around, do you want him decapitated?”
“Get a life!”
Perhaps like no other vocation in the world, parenting invites a near constant stream of unsolicited advice and self-righteous armchair quarterbacking. Did you breathe today? Your parenting is probably under question by someone out there, whether you know it or not.
Thanks to the internet, Facebook groups, and our oversaturated social media lives, we feel emboldened to say anything, to anyone, in any tone. We hide behind our smartphones and laptops, shielded by a layer of anonymity we wouldn’t have if we were talking to these people face to face. It’s easy to leave a snarky remark or passive aggressive comment when we don’t have to worry about running into the other person at a t-ball game that afternoon.
Parents of the internet: I’m challenging us all—myself included—to do better. If I think of that quarter inch profile picture on my newsfeed as the mom sitting next to me at the playground instead, I might choose my words a little more carefully. Maybe I’d even extend her some grace, and avoid the rush to judgment in favor of a little compassion. If I think of Kim Kardashian as just another mom on the soccer sidelines, cheering her kid on and loving him just as imperfectly as I’m loving my own, what I say might not be different, but the way I say it very likely would be.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that parents are above reproach. Could Kim Kardashian benefit from some counseling on car seat safety? Possibly. But that’s not the point.
Instead, we’d do well to take the words of 19th century author, Henry James to heart: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Even a couple of centuries later, I think that advice holds true.