This week, the viral parenting story heard 'round the world came to us from Australia, where a woman was scolded by her Facebook friends via an anonymous letter. The letter was its own example of poor etiquette form, considering nothing that happens on social media is *really* important enough to warrant being told what to do by an anonymous pack of mean girls -- but that doesn't necessarily mean the contents of the letter were untrue. If anything, I take the "poison pen" author at her every word. We've all known people who post too much baby minutiae on social media. It's actually what inspired the STFU, Parents blog in the first place. And over the years, I've come to give these minutiae-posting parents a nickname, a moniker to fit the overshare crime, as it were, and that nickname is "documom."
I began chronicling the behaviors of the Documom several years ago. Like a cultural anthropologist studying a species, I've watched as new iterations of this type of Facebook parent have evolved, and as a result, I've been forced to sub-categorize their habits in my submissions folders. My Documom folder currently has sub-folders for categories such as "Broken limbs," "Tonsils," "Haircuts," "Rashes," and "Miscellaneous" (you don't want to see what's in there, trust me). But the OG folder, the original subject matter that inspired the documom category in the first place, the one that always has far and away the most submissions in it, is titled simply, if not terrifyingly, "Teeth."
I first posted about parents' (mostly moms') obsession with their children's teeth back in 2011, and the examples have only gotten gorier and more detailed since then. Sure, I've also posted about the rashes, infections, and strange fluids parents document on Facebook. I even shared a short guide called "5 Signs of a Documom" with examples like "close-up pictures of stitches," and "dead skin removal." But in my mind, nothing compares to the unnecessary shock of teeth submissions. There's something oddly witchcraft-y about mothers being obsessed with (or even having a minor interest in) their kids' teeth, those pearly calcified structures all mammals harbor in their jaws. After all, they're not good for anything once they're not in a person's mouth. They can no longer effectively chew food, and they serve no true function, unless you're reallyyy into teeth and bone jewelry like a Flintstone character or a specialized Etsy mom crafter. You could even make the argument that mothers who choose to save their kids' teeth are basically creating a shrine to their children, amongst the other memorabilia I'm imagining like hair clippings, nail clippings, and jarred fecal samples, because if they don't collect and/or bottle their children's baby teeth out of obsession, why would parents bother keeping such things??
I digress. My point is, moms can't get enough of their children's dentition, whether teeth are coming in for the first time, loose for the first time, falling out for the first time, etc. I need a nap (with my mouthguard) just thinking about how excruciatingly boring this level of detail would be to scroll through on Facebook, minus all the photos that zoom in on empty tooth sockets and bloody gums. In fact, I wouldn't even write another column on this subject except people keep bringing it up and proving that my work here is not yet done.
Oh, Natalie. There's no need for you to send those submissions along, because I already have nearly two dozen (that's almost a full human set!) in my "Teeth" submissions folder. CHEW ON THAT, AWHILE, EH?
Let's brush up (ugh) on how NOT to post about your kids' teeth with some sparkly new examples, shall we?
1. Teething Close-Ups
Is this a real picture someone took of their child's mouth while shoving their French manicured fingers into his tiny mouth, or am I looking at the Benjamin Button version of the disembodied lips from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"? The submitter of this image says, "I would have believed her that her 1-year-old was teething without the close-up picture. Not that I cared either way. Ugh." You hear that, parents? WE BELIEVE YOU. Just tell us! Don't show us.
2. Enthusiastic Mom Hygienist In Training
All right! Way to go, Carson!
Aww. Give that lil guy a juicy steak!
Okay, ladies, that's quite enough. Stephanie "Mommytobe" -- it sounds like you already ARE a mommy, no? And Patricia and Sara...could you two just take this riveting conversation oh, I don't know, anywhere else? Not because you're really crowding Facebook with your teeth chatter, but because I can assure you that NO ONE CARES. (I'm starting to sound like the "poison pen" bitches now, aren't I?) Sara may very well inform Facebook of each and every tooth of Carson's that comes in. And then she'll probably make an announcement when they fall out. And then she'll have no friends left who haven't hidden her in their newsfeeds. The closer Carson gets to being able to eat any option on the kids menu, the closer Sara is to having "empty sockets" for internet friends.
3. "Cool" Teeth Revelation AKA Shark Jokes
Okay, I get it...the baby tooth is behind the permanent tooth and it's krazy! But, is it wild and outrageous enough to warrant posting this bizarre photo? This is like anything else in life: The premise may have seemed interesting, but if the outcome is a close-up of the kid's mouth -- not a shot of him pulling down him own lip and making a goofy face, but just a mouth -- it might be better not to post it at all. I wouldn't post a picture of my OWN freakish shark-like mouth (if I had one; instead I wore braces for over six years of my adolescence to avoid that), so I'd definitely draw the line at posting a photo of someone else's mouth, even my own child's. This picture is an act of narcissism masked as a dad joke about both sharks and West Side Story. All anyone initially sees is a child possibly pleading for help. By the time you notice the "shark tooth," you're like, "Oh. Cool, or something. Good one, John. I guess."
4. Loose Teeth
I feel like 50% of the moms I meet should wear a daily uniform consisting of yoga pants and a t-shirt that says "Shush! You wait lol." No, I will not wait. I know right motherfucking now that this picture, like the shark example before it, looks like a still from a horror movie and I wouldn't post it on Facebook. It's doesn't even make sense to post it, because no one can tell which tooth is loose. It's not even hanging by a thread, which could be mildly interesting if not more horror-like. I mean, we all know what comes next if someone is documoming their child's "loose tooth," right? You guessed it:
Aaaahhh what a cute picture of a beautiful little girl wearing a mint green polka dot tank top and a floofy white flower headband and GAHHH why did her mother post a picture before she wiped away the blood? Yes, it's a "special occasion" when you're little and your teeth start falling out of your mouth (especially if you get a visit from the Tooth Fairy), but I don't recall my mother going, "The bottom tooth fell out??? WAIT RIGHT THERE, do NOT wipe away the blood or get a wet cotton ball LET ME GO GET MY CAMERA!!! All my friends are going to LOVE THIS." No one's mother did that in 1987 with their 35mm cameras. Do today's parents feel like they need to make up for lost time because of the advent of digital photography? Someone should tell them they don't. (I'm doing my best over here.) Besides, we lose teeth for our entire lives. How far can the documoming go?
5. Someone Pour Me A Tall Drink Because Teeth Extraction
The final stop on our Teeth Museum tour today is just a blurry photo of three extracted teeth covered in plastic. No, this is not a forensic scientist's laboratory or evidence pending for a criminal trial. It's just Alicia's kid's teeth, which used to be in a human skull, but now reside in a plastic envelope. THE END.
Did I mention the Teeth Museum has a gift shop? Photo prints, X-rays, old retainers, broken teeth that were knocked out during a kickball game -- whatever it is you desire to hang in your home or perhaps add to your own teeth shrine is available for purchase. These are fossils we're talking about here, folks. Precious memories. They deserve to keep on shining.