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The Rumble Turns Nasty

So, The Rumble on the Preschool Moms List got nasty over the weekend. L. took her ball and went home.

In a fit of pique, she resigned as room parent, quit the mailing list, decided that she has “better ways to use [her] time”, and is now thinking about homeschooling next year instead of dealing with the moms.

Apparently, things got really heated on Thursday, when they were all in the tight little knot in the parking lot. (I talked to L. on IM the other day.) Basically, P. said that she was worried that a pedophile might find a FB photo of her beloved little boy and then stalk him. All the moms agreed, in a massive mental 180. (Most of them were all about putting pictures on the web at the beginning of the year.)

Now, I reiterate that parents have the right to control their child’s images.

I also agree with L’s point that they are all completely over-reacting and that every internet expert agrees that no one is going to stalk young children online. The article that P cited in an email, in fact, states as much:

“Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online,” said Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute.

However, P was citing the quotes of the paranoid moms, whose fears make up the bulk of the article. That’s a … problem with modern journalism. They play up the fear and then devote one paragraph to debunking it with one line from one expert.

So, L. is right in that P is being a fearful and ridiculous mom, and her fear is going to impact L’s son’s therapy.

However, P is right in that she has the right to control her child’s image. And L is wrong in that she could have approached this in a much more reasonable fashion, calmly and politely, without shoving “the truth” down everyone’s throats.

This is actually a lesson I’ve struggled with over the years. You can get what you want by being stupid and nice instead of being smart and logical (and not nice). I prefer being right and smart, but I’ve learned that people don’t like having their fault pointed out. Yes, I know, it shouldn’t have taken me 30+ years to learn that.

Now, my concern, the aspect of this that most directly affects me, is the conversation in the parking lot on Tuesday morning. I’m going to have to walk a fine line here — these are what I think of as “consensus moms”, the kind of woman who really wants to agree with everyone and for everyone to agree with her. They regard anyone who does not agree as a threat and an attack on their parenting styles. And I’m not quite capable of lying and agreeing with them, while throwing my friend L under the bus.

But I’m not willing to tilt at windmills with L. either. I don’t actually care about most of these women, so I don’t care if they are stupid and do stupid things. (If these were my friends, I would try to explain the facts, while still respecting their right to be crazy.) And I have a healthy fear of The Herd. If these women, en masse, decide that I’m a bad mom or a threat to their fragile sense of self, then that could impact my child significantly.

And hell, it could impact me. I’ve been on the wrong end of a herd attack way too many times to dismiss their power. (L is pretty disdainful of it, as are many geeks.) I know that when a herd of “consensus girls” turns on someone, it can get brutal — even fatal. I’m not a 15 year old girl, so I’m well past the point where getting attacked and ostracized caused me to be suicidal, but I like sending The Child to her preschool and they could make that difficult. We don’t travel in the same social circles, for which I am grateful, but Boston’s a small city and I can’t be sure that they or their husbands will never bump into me or my husband, professionally.

I’m going to go for deflection and redirection as a strategy — talk about the earthquake in Chile, mention my Aunt in Law in Hawai’i and the fact that she was in danger because of the tsunmai. The Olympics and the Closing Ceremonies are good diversion techniques, too.

I have other thoughts on this, but The Child is driving me up a wall so I’m going to stop now.

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