Have you seen this commercial? Have a look...I'll wait.
Last week it started popping up in my Facebook feed, usually without comment. But occasionally there was some preamble that indicated parents should watch and think about it, or something like that.
I tend to be a skeptical sort, so it took a few times before I finally clicked on it. I wasn't sure I cared what was in it. Usually when parents are warned that there's food for thought in something, there's also reason to believe I may be annoyed.
(This is my cutesy little way of signalling the beginning of the ranty portion of this blog post.)
Finally, I threw caution to the wind. I hadn't packed my bags, but who needs a toothbrush when you're going on a guilt trip?
At first it plays like a heartwarming holiday story about letters to Santa. It was no surprise that Santa was being asked to bring a variety of items, many of which I tell my own son are out of Santa's budget. He does, after all, have to be fiscally responsible with his resources. Elf labour doesn't come cheap - and neither do materials.
Imagine my surprise when the children were asked to write a letter to their parents.
Actually, I wasn't surprised. Yanno, because I already knew that some people thought I should take the message of the video to heart in my parenting. (These friends have good intentions - I'm truly not knocking them for it.)
Here's the thing...
I have no issue with the message. Spend time with your kids - it's more important than buying them stuff they'll be excited about for a day, a week, or a month. Being aware of their needs and not ignoring them - that's important too.
I'm down with that. I DO that. I totally agree with it.
The problem is the way the message is presented. It's contrived.
With a capital C-O-N-T-R-I-V-E-D.
"For Christmas this year, all I want is to spend time with my parents/mom/dad," said very few kids ever that aren't genuinely deprived of time with their parents. Actually, I think IKEA possibly found them all for this commercial.
When my son doesn't want to go to school - roughly 3 out of every 5 days - he is ALL OVER the parental guilt. There is no child in the world who misses his mother more than mine on days he doesn't feel like going to school. But bring up Christmas? It pretty much doesn't matter who he's writing a letter to, he's got a comprehensive list of things he wants - and not one of them is time with mom or dad.
I'm not bothered about this video for myself. I spend a lot of time with my son. I spend regular time away from him too. I don't feel guilty - not when I'm away from him (except when he's sick; that's hard) and not watching this commercial.
What bothers me is that there are parents in this world who have no choice. They don't have the means to live without multiple jobs, which severely limits time with their child(ren). Some are torn between caring for their children and caring for their parents or other family members. Others have very demanding work that involve serious issues like public health and safety and someone does have to do those jobs.
I'm just so over the barrage of shaming that gets thrown at people (not just parents) for living their life the best way they can. And, when it comes to parents, (and as my dad used to say) our job is to move our children from dependence to independence. Part of doing this job actually requires that we spend time apart to some degree.
Maybe I'm alone in feeling like the commercial is complete and utter bunk, but I'm just not keen on the bad rap that parents get sometimes. Just because I'm looking at my phone for a few minutes while I'm sitting at dinner with my kid doesn't mean I'm not engaging with him. (Usually, he's begging me to look something up.)
The same goes for a million other circumstances, including those times when parents desperately need time away from their child(ren) and all they hear in their head are voices telling them they're a bad parent for their genuine need.
Those voices need to take a long walk off a short cliff. You don't stop being a person with needs when you have offspring.
(Another cutesy way of signalling the rant is now over. You can breathe easy again.)
How amazing would it be to see more content about parents that celebrate them doing the best they can?