Triaditude Adjustment: Parental patience problems

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I’m not great at mornings. Regardless of what time the alarm goes off, I never hit the snooze bar as much as I go full-on Rumble in the Jungle against it, pummeling the face of my iPhone until its factory-installed shrieking noises stop. When I do finally manage to pull myself to a standing position, it’s another hour before I can form real words instead of sounding like an icemaker with a face.

This is why I’m completely dazzled by any morning news anchor, or anyone who can read full sentences before 10 a.m. I’m sort of a news addict, flipping from channel to channel while I simultaneously try to untangle my own eyelashes, and inevitably I end up on HLN. I’ve seen every morning show (or at least the last 30 minutes of every morning show) and no one can match HLN “Morning Express” host Robin Meade when it comes to unnatural a.m. energy levels. I could do more amphetamines than the 1986 Mets and still not have that kind of enthusiasm, especially not for reading copy about cat-food recalls.

HLN, which used to be known as Headline News, is a weird channel. It fills most of its on-air hours with reruns of “Forensic Files,” so there’s a good chance that, at some point during the day, you’ll see a man with unfashionable eyeglasses calmly explaining blood-
splatter patterns. (And every single episode — even the ones about crimes from last summer — looks like it was filmed with your dad’s old Camcorder, like someone recorded that interview with Captain LensCrafter over your fifth grade dance recital.)

I could do more amphetamines than the 1986 Mets and still not have that kind of enthusiasm, especially not for reading copy about cat-food recalls.

But even when it’s broadcasting news, it’s not really news, you know? I mean, it’s not “fake news” like the new president shakes his tiny fists about, and it’s not the “alternative facts” that Kellyanne Conway deliriously defends, but it’s not news. Basically, if the other cable news networks were the Jacksons, HLN would be Tito.

A couple of mornings ago, Meade excitedly transitioned from a story about a woman who discovered an icicle in her hall closet (Tell us more about this frozen water, you sorceress!) to a viral video featuring a kid who was uncontrollably sobbing because her mom gave her a kitten. And that’s when I immediately changed the channel.

Let me just preface this next thing by saying that this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but that’s cool, I have a lot of unpopular opinions. (Like what? Like, I legit slept through the first half of Rogue One because, with all of the tedious dialogue about senators and alliances, it was like watching Space C-SPAN. Like, I would rather eat a burrito from that little reheated Ferris wheel at the Citgo station than pay for its overpriced, flavorless cousin at Chipotle. Like, I’m not attracted to Benedict Cumberbatch because I think he looks like a femur.)

And let me also preface it by saying that I’m not a parent. I don’t have children or pets or houseplants and I probably wouldn’t even qualify to adopt a highway. But could this maybe, please, be the year that parents stop sharing videos of their kids weeping because they’ve been given a kitten or a ferret or because you’ve just pulled into a Disney-adjacent parking lot instead of the pediatrician’s office? To me, those videos are way more uncomfortable than they are adorable, and the underlying message always seems like it’s less about the kid and more “Look at what a great parent I am! She’s weeping because I just bought her something amazing! Try to beat that before your next playdate.” 

The video of this kid with the kitten didn’t seem cute or heartwarming: It seemed invasive and borderline exploitative, as do all of the clips like this. I’m not saying don’t film this stuff — it’s cool if you film all of it. Save it to remember how excited your children got before they mutate into sullen teenagers. Send it to their grandparents or their far-flung aunts and uncles, or save it so you can humiliate them during their wedding receptions.

But don’t put it online so everyone with an internet connection can watch your kid having an after-school breakdown. To me, those videos are contrived, set up to elicit an overly emotional reaction and probably reinforce behaviors that don’t need to be reinforced — and they affect the kids, too.

I know it’s tempting to put our entire lives on Facebook, especially because there’s a built-in audience for it all. But forcing Carol in accounting to watch something in the hopes that she’ll click that Like button is, again, just validating you, not your inconsolable 8-year-old.

But now that I think about it, maybe I’ll start doing the same thing. When I do something nice for myself, I’ll start recording it, sharing my teary-eyed response when I buy my own lunch. “It’s a burrito!” I’ll say, wiping my eyes. “It’s the Citgo burrito I always wanted!”