To celebrate the internet tradition of Throwback Thursday, I am going to use this space to link back to a piece of writing I’m especially proud of. Today I’d like to take us back to the winter of 2013 as I fumbled for a framing device to use when writing about the toxic stew of bad parenting advice and practice that burbled in the fever swamps of social media. Something about gratuitous but playful smashing done for as much the spectacle as the lesson learned. Something uniquely American, somehow wholesome and at the same time kinda bonkers.
Thus was born the very first Internet Meme Demolition Derby, 10 Rules for Dating My Daughter. The post opens with what I consider the Derby Manifesto…
Back in Ye’ Olden Days of the Internet the email listserv was the preferred method of disseminating crackpot conspiracy theories, junk science, apocalyptic prophecies and nonsensical grandmotherly “advice”. But listservs were clumsy devices, with slow response times and undependable circulation. Plus your intended audience needed to actually click on the email, a dicey proposition if the recipient doesn’t know you well. You could be a Nigerian Prince for all Aunt Sally knows!
Today, because we live in the FUTURE we have left behind such primitive tools. Thanks to Blogs, Twitter, Google+ and especially Facebook, we now have the ability to share our most offensive, sloppily formed, bigoted, insensitive notions with EVERYONE who is still talking to us. Crazy Uncle Liberty downloads some pearls of wisdom from Glenn Beck University? Share it with EVERYBODY! Do kids these days need to seriously pull up their pants, stand up straight, go to church and get off everyone’s lawns? You can tell EVERYBODY! Have parenting advice for all of those people out their doing everything wrong and thus assuring the downfall of our once great society? YOU HAVE A VOICE! We have taken the time honored art of standing on a street corner and shouting at strangers and plugged it in to the Information Superhighway!
Of course there’s a downside… once you set your Internet Meme free, be it inflammatory blog post, snarky hashtag, or pithy Facebook image, it’s no longer under your control. Your traitorous liberal nephew, your feminist ex-roomate or your free spirited gay cousin might find it, carefully analyze it, then smash into a smoking pile of wreckage in Internet Meme Demolition Derby!!!
I’ve fiddled back and forth with the format since then, depending on the meme in question, whether it is heavily image or text dependent etcetera. But in general it looks like this…
So I think we can all agree that we have a serious contender here for “Father of the Year”. There are, of course so many things wrong with this picture. There’s the antiquated patriarchal notion that a father must ward off his daughters suitors, perhaps whilst in shining armor. There’s the fairly icky habit of referring to any young woman who is old enough to go on a date as “my princess”. There’s the paranoia of someone who would treat his daughter’s dates as if they are all potential members of Al-Quaida.
And last but not least the threat of violence implicit throughout, as if ones position as “paterfamilias” grants one the right to dish out vigilante justice. And the worst part is that he probably does think of himself as Father of the Year material. Big parts of the USA are still filled to the brim with folks who think like this about their daughters.
Your kids aren’t your property, folks. They are your responsibility. Certainly part of that responsibility comes in the guise of protector. And I understand the impulse to protect your kids from harm, both physical and emotional. Heck, no one is even asking you to approve of all of your dating age children’s romantic interests. If you have a bad feeling about Kenny The Boy Who Hangs Out Behind The Record Store, you should probably share that with Definitely Not Your Princess. But if you are interested in raising your kids up into functioning adults then you have to allow them to grow. And part of growth is making mistakes. Part of growth is getting your heart broken, picking the exactly wrong guy/girl, making poor choices and learning from them. And part of finding Mr. Right… or at least Mr. Right Now, is having the freedom to make those choices on your own. To know that when your kid does find someone they like that their parents will treat that someone with dignity and respect.
And if you respect their decisions they are much more likely to respect your opinion when you feel you need to talk about whether dating a meth dealer is a smart life decision.
Click on over to the original to get the whole gist, give the Grounded Parents some needed clicks. Every bit of ad revenue gets us closer to buying surfing lessons for this dog!