(Graphic by Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)
Dear Moms on Facebook With Above-Average Kids (hereafter referred to as MOF-WAACs),
Your children are unique in their accomplishments. They exceed in a wide range of sports: soccer, basketball, field hockey and then soccer again, but of the “travel team” variety. They are given baffling-to-me-and-perhaps-other-people-who-don’t-live-in-your-town awards like “regional,” “all-city” and “division champ” (I say choose one geographical designation and go with it, but I don’t live in your town.) They always get A’s, and you, as a MOF-WAAC, have never failed to photograph their report cards and upload them to Facebook with the hashtag #soproud. In fact, from their post-natal APGAR score (perfect 10s, scanned and uploaded) to their college diplomas (magna cum laude, ditto), they’ve done nothing but made you #soproud. One noteworthy example (and I’m not making this up): Your toddler photographed mid-defecation, straddling a low plastic toilet with the caption “First poop in a big-girl potty!” And the hashtag #poophappens. On this point I couldn’t agree more: Poop does happen. But ask yourselves, MOF-WAACs, do we need photos of it online?
Setting this one aside (for now), most of the posts are awesome! Or so awesome! I know this because the ensuing Facebook comments are all along the lines of “That’s awesome!” followed by “You must be so proud!” which is redundant because MOF-WAACs always start their posts with “So proud…” and often throw down a #soproud somewhere for good measure.
“Are they using their kids as human shields, hiding behind them because they fear their own lives matter or mean less?”
Until writing this letter to you, dear MOF-WAACs, I’ve been reading your posts without commenting but also without understanding why the practice makes me feel mildly irritated. Is it because I live in the suburbs where this kind of pride is impossible to avoid? Where there are IRL Mothers in the Suburbs With Above Average Children (MITS-WAACs) who have bumper stickers that read “Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student at John Read Middle School” despite the fact that these are just not at all okay? So much so there’s a whole cottage industry producing backlash bumper stickers along the lines of “My Kid Sells Drugs to Your Honor Roll Student?”
No, that’s not it. The source of my upset is that you have stepped out of the picture, MOF-WAACs. This often happens in women’s lives and friendships. We’ve all had normal friends who turn into raging bridezillas for the entire year preceding their weddings or thoughtful friends who become humorless Mother Superiors at the birth of a baby. I remember thinking, “I’ve lost her,” when friends change, even while feeling hopeful they’ll come back. But MOF-WAACs don’t seem to come back, at least not on their Facebook timelines.
Is it because they think moms are measured by the number of moments that make them proud? (And can this be at all good for their children?) Or are they using their kids as human shields, hiding behind them because they fear their own lives matter or mean less? If so, the second thing I’m here to say is this: Your lives mean something to me. I’d love to know about your herb garden, the book you’re reading, the sunhat you bought for your vacation — any and all of the moments that make up your life. As friends, we may have had occasional discussions about important matters; we may have marched to oppose Apartheid or support a presidential candidate. But mostly we speak of gardens and books and sun hats. Nothing more but — and here’s my point -— nothing less either because this is the stuff of friendships: sharing the silly, even vapid side of ourselves we keep from people we need to impress, simply because we can. That’s who I want to see on Facebook. I want you back in the picture, MOF-WAAC, aka my old friend. Just not on the potty, please.