Monday, July 23, 2012

Mama Bean is a Narrative and a Statistic

You know what's great about the internet? No matter what your Weirdness, someone else has it, too. And they've got a blog or a tumblr or a pinboard, and inter-kismet will bring y'all together. It's the way of the (brave new) world. The internet makes bell curves come alive - your weirdness is just the centre of some weird bell curve, populated by a bunch of other weird people who are all, on average weird like you. Bell. Community. Interwebz are Love.

As a new mom, a young mom, and inexperiencedandbaffledandtired mom, finding my Self on another's blog, seeing myself in a meme, hearing my voice in someone else's post, holy shit was that a relief. Like whoooooosh   ...   relief. And then? I get to interact and comment and like things? I get to have a voice, too? And you're gonna agree with me? And affirm me? Wha? Ohshityes, sign. me. up.

But it doesn't stay that way. Or rather, this brave new world, this virtual group parenting, this Cloud Parenting, it's a double edged sword. Because, even when we share weirdness, we remain individuals. And in one way or another, there will be clashes, differences, confrontations. And there will be Trolls.

I was chatting with a friend about how frustrating it is when someone extrapolates their parenting experience out to the Whole. I'm not talking about the Well-meaners offering (unsolicited or not) advice. I mean the people who seem to misapprehend that the way they are living Parenthood is not the way everyone lives Parenthood. That, in fact, every child is different, and every mother, too, and every family and community beyond that, too also.

It starts to feel like you're being judged, because your experience doesn't look like theirs, and for whatever reason (familiarity?) they'd prefer if you looked like them. The scientist in me wants to scream at them (a little, just a little), "You have a sample size of ONE! That is not actual evidence. Anecdotes are not CONCLUSIVE!"

This is the paradox of Cloud Parenting. On the one hand, this blessing, this relief of finding your Tribe, where you feel your choices and preferences and experiences are accepted, where you belong. On the other hand, this struggle to assert your individuality, and its worth, to hold up your Story over and against the bell curve. It's a tension, and this generation of parents has to learn to navigate it in ways the grandparents did not.

I'm just saying, when I feel like myself or my kids are being outliers in some worrisome way, I am grateful for the opportunity to find some corner of the internet that affirms we are just plain normal. Or at least, we are statistically Within Range of normal. But, the power of the Cloud doesn't negate or lessen or cheapen our Shine - we are still sparkling shining snowflakes of specialness. And so there, I am grateful for the opportunity to just smoodge all over myself about our Sparkle in my corner of the internet. But I shouldn't fear that anyone's particular story sets a statistical standard for me to live up to.

I don't feel like I'm getting this out very well. I just wanted to say that there's a tension between the opportunities provided by the Internet to a) express one's (parenting, religious, whatever) Narrative as unique and special and b) find one's (parenting, religious, whatever) Group as inclusive and homogeneous at the same time. It's a tension that didn't exist for previous generations. That's all I'm saying.


  1. I like the way you put this. It is nice to sometimes find that we do have others like us in our daily parenting and marriae lives. No matter how we do it, some find it wrong, but we can always find those that agree and make us seem proud. Other make us think, others make us change, some even make us stronger. Im glad you and the Papa Bean make such a strong team of Beans and your little beans are awesome as well.

    1. Thank you! I am intrigued, too, by the newness of the whole Cloud Fathering community/discourse/whatever, because it feels so new still, only a few generations into this phenomenon where dads are talking to each other about dad-ding. I for one am grateful (so grateful) to the online dad community for its influence and support of PB, and in turn, his role in our family. Warms my heart!