Be That Friend
Hello, My name is Graeme and I have a toddler.
If you follow me on Facebook you've seen #becausetoddler and #thisiswhyikeephim on my posts about the roller coaster that is parenting a two year old. I've been told to keep my seat belt on for three years old as well, so... yay?
This post isn't really about the Buddy though. It's about you. And me. And my friends. His latest feat has been taking his diaper off and smearing his shit all over himself and his room during nap time. In response to this I did what moms all over the world do now when their kid does something disgusting/confusing/horrifying, I went to Facebook.
The first time he did it my post was pretty funny, look at this toddler right of passage that we just went through. The responses were poop jokes and virtual back slapping.
The second time I was a little pissed. The responses this time were more advice and commiseration.
The third time I was very obviously IN NO MOOD to deal with this. My friends, my squad of mamas, was amazing. They let me vent my frustration. They didn't shame me. They didn't patronize me. They even shared their own horror stories and they were proud of me for not losing my own shit (pun intended). They lifted me up. A few had some advice that I hadn't tried before. A few mentioned that they had gotten through the same phase by crying and screaming and wouldn't recommend that. No one passed judgment. No one said that this was my fault or that I should have or shouldn't have done X, Y or Z.
We see groups of parents tear each other down online pretty regularly. Moms have gotten the worst rap for doing it, but dads are catching up in this race to the bottom of human behavior. At the same time we know that more and more mothers and fathers are dealing with postpartum mental illnesses and need our support. We know that even when we are perfectly healthy this parenting gig is hard as hell. We know that the most powerful words someone can hear are, "Me too. You aren't alone".
The parents in my life and in my online communities are supportive. They are curious and open and willing to admit mistakes. They are not perfect at all, but each of us believe that you are the very best parent for your child and each of us are struggling to believe that we are the very best parent for our children. It's not that we never have a knee-jerk judging thought - it's that we try our best to not let that be our last thought and to not let that thought be the one we type out.
Some of this is luck, I have met some truly amazing people online. Some of this is the result of the principal that like attracts like, judgy people won't enjoy me. Some of this is simply because I won't stand for it any longer. I will speak up for myself and for others and I will unfriend and block people who try to come for me or mine.
The end result is that on a day when I was pushed to the limit, by a work overload, by a cluster feeding newborn, and by a poop smearing toddler - I was able to find solace and humor and hope and it meant so much to me.
How do we change the culture on Facebook and other online spaces? By doing it. Be that friend who posts about the bad days as well as the good. Be that friend who doesn't judge, but offers sympathy or empathy. Be that friend who randomly posts a reminder that you can do hard things on someone's wall. BE THAT FRIEND.