Have you noticed that people are getting a little bit over reactive these days, particularly when it comes to their perception of their children’s safety?
Olena Kachmar/123RF Photo
The other day I was browsing my Facebook timeline and saw the following post:
“A stranger attacked a toddler after the girl spoke during a movie! According to the toddler’s mother, her two-year-old daughter Harley simply said “popcorn” during the film which prompted the woman sitting next to her to lose her temper, throw popcorn on the toddler and hit her on the head with the empty container.”
The post went on to describe the incident as “horrifying” and “a nightmare.”
To begin with, there’s the hyperbole. Sure, the behavior of the popcorn tosser was clearly unwarranted, but describing it as a horrifying attack diminishes the experience of those who actually do suffer nightmarish assaults, and was totally out of proportion to the incident.
I couldn’t resist jumping into the discussion.
“Horrifying? A nightmare? The child had some popcorn poured on her head and was bonked with an empty paper cup,” I wrote. “Not cool, but let’s keep things in perspective. Horrific and nightmarish would be if your child was seriously burned, run over or fell through a plate glass window (insert your own disaster), but a shower of popcorn and tap on the noggin with a light object just spoils your day – it’s not a life-altering crisis.”
Although a few agreed, I got some really ugly responses, including how it was a good thing I was single and didn’t have children. “Perspective is one thing… but if you don’t get the mental scarring this can do to a toddler then don’t have kids,” one person wrote.
I admitted to being worse than Hitler just to put a stop to the vitriol over my response, but it didn’t work. And even more disturbing were the truly violent comments from other parents who posted what they would have done to the “attacker” had it been their child. They’re comments included:
“I would kill anybody if they ever did it to mine …”
“I would have smacked her back so hard she would be crapping popcorn …”
“I would have punched her lights out …”
I’d certainly go to jail for hitting her back, that is, if I left her alive!!! …”
“Her teeth would be popcorn in her throat …”
“She would need a stretcher to exit the theater.”
The authors of the posts seemed proud of themselves and even lamented how unjust it would be to get into trouble for injuring the woman who “traumatized” their child.
Now, I’m aware of the natural urge to protect ones’ children, but this all seemed to be more evidence of how the rhetoric for the family unit has elevated it to a position that reigns supreme over all things. The comments from the parents seemed so self-righteous — and therein rests my problem with the glorification of parenthood. These people truly believed that there were no boundaries when it came to defending their child. Any offense, no matter how trivial, called for serious retaliation.
So how did we get his way, particularly in the last two decades? I think it’s because we’re bombarded with images that display families with kids as our culture’s ideal social unit. On top of that, we’re constantly being warned by the news media about the dangers faced by children. All-day news stations and non-stop news feeds push out the same frightening stories over and over again. And of course, advertisers love to sell products that will keep your child safe, like a tracking bracelet so you’ll always know where they are without exposing them to online predators. (Of course, telling people the fact that most assaults on children are perpetrated by their own family members doesn’t sell anything.)
This all creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust that evil people are lying in wait to prey upon your children. Any hint of danger requires an immediate, heavy-handed reaction. The hostile comments I read on Facebook show how our social conditioning that has warped our ability to keep things in perspective and how minor conflicts can to escalate into violent behavior that is always justified – no matter how slight the infraction.
Copyright © Louise Harper/2018 Singular Communications, LLC.
Louise Harper is a sculptor turned cook who specializes in recipes for one. She lives in Melbourne Australia (in a house for one, of course) and loves cooking “just for her.” For more information on her “single” series of cook books, visit www.singleserve.net.au