Leave My Inbox Alone: When Mommy List-Servs Attack
Modern-day mothering might not be quite as communal as it was for previous generations. When my mother was a little girl, there was an entire neighborhood ready to help out with an extra cup of sugar, meal ideas, child-watching and more. But I think that list-servs have done a good job of filling in the gap from those days. From my neighborhood parenting list-servs, I’ve gotten tips on what to feed infants as they transition to solid foods, where to purchase the best stroller for city streets and what activities for toddlers are open on rainy days. I love them.
But. (As Pee Wee Herman wisely said, “But what? Everyone I know has a big ‘But’…? C’mon, let’s talk about your big ‘But’.”)
As much as I love these list-servs, they also seem to attract people who don’t quite know how to use them. Here are a few examples of items that might not be appropriate for a parenting list-serv.
1) Unwanted political screeds.
My favorite example comes from last week. I live in Virginia and we had elections. The day before we were supposed to go vote, a father on the list-serv emailed everyone with the subject “Tom Blickensderfer Hates Dogs.” (Yes, I changed the name. You’ll see why when I post the note below) Here it is:
Before you vote for Alexandria City Council tomorrow, I wanted to share my story on Tom Blickensderfer and why this guy is someone you should pass on for City Council.
My brief interaction with Blickensderfer at the Del Ray Dog Park is one I won’t forget. I took my dog to the park one morning a few years ago. My dog was a large dog that was well socialized and interacted well with the other dogs. A smaller dog (not well socialized) bit my dog in the side causing him a painful wound. When I voiced my objection to the owner, Tom Blickensderfer confronted me and went on a screaming tirade about me and my dog. Not sure why Tom felt like he needed to intervene as he wasn’t involved and I had never met the guy before. Once Tom was through with his rant I was able to sort the issue out with owner of the other dog. No one asked Tom to get involved and he certainly didn’t help resolve anything. In the end I wound up with a $500.00 vet bill from the dog bite and a strong conviction that I had met the biggest Ahole in Del Ray.
This was on the list-serv for the Del Ray Parents, obviously. Now, as much as we all love the neighborhood version of the “October Surprise,” and as much as we all love cartoonishly vicious negative campaign mail, this was a bit much, no? And what in the world would make you think that this was appropriate for a parenting list-serv? (Side note: have you ever met a dog owner who doesn’t claim their dog is well socialized?)
Whether it’s local, city, state or national issues or candidates, though, politics is best not handled on the list-serv. And it’s surprising how often parents try to sneak it on there.
2) Turning everything into a race issue.
Maybe this is just unique to my first list-serv — the one serving parents in a certain neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where we once lived — but usually it went something like this: “Hey friends, just wanted to report that I just saw two black youths, one over six-feet-tall, the other about six inches shorter, wearing black sweats and white tennis shoes run off with my GPS and head toward Connecticut and 14th. They had a big bag and look to be hunting for other items. I’ve called the police but let me know if you hear anything. Thanks, Tammy.” And then within about .14 seconds, another email would come in that went something like “Why did you have to make a huge deal about the fact that the youth were black? This city will never heal from our racial wounds when we focus on race.” And then you could just watch your inbox fill up with defenses of one party or the other. At some point the original poster might write “I was just trying to give the best description I could, I apologize for adding to the racial wounds.” For a couple of weeks, people would offer their crime reports in the cagiest, vaguest way imaginable. Then someone would forget and we’d repeat the cycle.