LAST month, a 28-year-old father of two from Pennsylvania posted a photo on the social media network Reddit entitled “Just being a Dad”.
In the shot, Jon Arigo is seen sitting on his couch playing a computer game with his bare feet laid out on a sticker-covered coffee table. While his one-year-old daughter, Kylie, snuggles up beside him and stares at the TV screen, his three-year-old, Emilia, paints her father’s toe nails. On a another table in the background several more bottles of nail varnish are visible and what appears to be a pop-up book. Later we’re informed that the hands were done too.
Reaction to the photo was huge and not all of it, as you’ve probably guessed, was positive. While some said the photo “warmed [their] heart” and was “awesome”, others suggested that the snap looked “less like multitasking and much more like an amazing ability to ignore his kids”.
Another detractor suggested Arigo “interact with them more”.
“I rarely post photos, but I thought this was just a funny picture that showed us all doing what we love to do,” Arigo told Yahoo Parenting in response to the reaction. “It really captured what a typical night looks like at our house.”
Social media is a very real and potent part of who and what we are these days; at least in terms of how we want to show ourselves and how we want to be perceived. As to whether our Facebook status, Bebo page or Twitter bites reflect who we really are is an entirely different matter altogether.
Social media commentator Sherry Turkle calls it The Goldilocks Effect and explains it thus: “Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be.
We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch the face, the voice, the flesh, the body — not too little, not too much, just right.”
Arguably, the family photo has always been the beacon of the orchestrated, and often rather twee, snap but even in modern times where everything is documented and posted, pictures of family occasions still carry the same quality of perfection. The shots are outings and picnics with animals, hugs and smiles and show the family out and about “doing something”.
There are very few shots of daddy and Fionn, for example, sitting on their backsides watching Peppa Pig or shots of daddy and Fionn eating breakfast or simply chatting a bit.
Jon Arigo got so much stick online because he wasn’t “doing anything” as per today’s consensus gentium. But if we look at the photo more closely we can see that he was in fact doing loads; acting as a model, breaking down gender stereotypes, entertaining his kids, comforting his kids, indulging their wants and most of all he was simply being there.
I for one was absolutely delighted to see a photo like this posted online because I have to admit one of my favourite times of the day is sitting down with Fionn, grabbing the grey blanket that normally stretches across the back of the couch, putting it over our legs and turning on Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom. I’ve even been known (whisper it) to have a beer in his presence. As the day’s exertions and running around leave both his and my body turning into yawns and muscle twitches, he puts his head against my arm and we both relax.
Perhaps it is driven by the guilt of having to (or wanting to) work but there is a modern day myth amongst parents that they always have to be doing something. Surely we’re under enough pressure as it is without to believe that that is actually true.
Perhaps Jon Arigo could become a poster boy for a new type of parenting. There’s been slow food. Why not slow parenting?
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