Much has been made of a mystery British man who left a kind note, together with a £5 ($9) bill, praising a young single mom on a train. And frankly, I'm struggling to grasp the reason for all the hoopla in the media.
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"Have a drink on me. You are a credit to your generation, polite and teaching the little boy good manners," read the note. "PS I have a daughter your age, someone did the same for her once. Hope when she has children she is as good a mother as you. Have a lovely evening."
What did 23-year-old single mom Samantha Welch do that was so mind-blowing? She looked after her three year-old son, instilling good manners and keeping him busy. Forgive me, but isn't that what parents do? Doesn't that kind of come with the territory of being a mom?
Was it the fact that she's in her early 20s, the fact that she's a single mom, or a combination of the two that somehow confounded the man's expectations? Because there are stellar and less-than-stellar examples of motherhood everywhere.
Age and relationship status has exactly nothing to do with a person's ability to parent.
Notwithstanding that random acts of kindness like that of Ken Saunders are incredibly cool, the way it's been blown up speaks to the preconceptions the 50 year-old man himself —and society at large— have of young single moms.
No one knows this more than Welch, who was so inordinately touched by the man's gesture that she sought to find him on Facebook. Essentially to thank him in person for thanking her.
“People look at you and judge you every day when you’re a single mum but getting that note made me feel special and proud," said Welch. "That might sound silly, but all I’m trying to do is make a better life for my son.”
No matter how sweet and delectable your new baby looks, it's probably advisable not to name her after a fruit jam or a chocolaty spread. This isn't apparent to everyone, though, so a French court had to step in and lay down the law preventing two families from naming their kids after breakfast condiments: "Nutella" and "Fraise" (Strawberry) respectively.
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Must never be a dull day in the life of a registrar when it comes to reading increasingly unconventional baby names. Imagine the look on the French registrar's face as they read the word Nutella. He then passed word on to the local prosecutor, who had nothing better to do than bring the matter to court.
Acting in the girl's best interest, the judge ordered the name change in case it should “lead to mockery and unpleasant remarks.” And because the parents didn't show up, the court—the court!—went one further and picked an alternate name: Ella.
Ella is a lovely name, don't get me wrong. But how is it up to a court to decide what parents can and can't name the flesh from their own loins? If they want to choose a ridiculous (and by that I mean guaranteed-to-be-ridiculed) name, then that's their prerogative. They will be the ones paying to go to deed poll before the child reaches school age. They will be the town laughing stock, having to console their child every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
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In the case of Strawberry, the parents had a change of heart and sensibly opted for a 19th century French name, Fraisine (which will no doubt see her nicknamed Fraise anyway, so it's a win-win).
Another overruled choice was the French cartoon Titeuf, but Game of Thrones characters, Khaleesi and Joffrey, were fair game.
Even dog owners are not immune from the French name brigade. "Itler" and "Iva," which sounded a little too similar to Adolf and Eva Braun, became "Ilisa" and "Isio" following complaints by the village mayor. My aunt once had a cat with heterochromia named Satan. No biggie.
In an ongoing quest for individuality, parents are going to ever more extreme extremes to coin that original and unique name for baby, whether that means messing with traditional spelling or raiding the kitchen cupboards for inspiration.
So what if we eschew all common sense in the process? Names are harmless fun, er, right? Nutella never hurt anyone...
Who better to tackle the parenting rivalries than Similac, an infant formula company that often finds itself caught in the crossfire of the Mommy Wars?
The latest ad is a brilliant parody of modern parenting cliques, which are admittedly a throwback to high school subcultures. (Yes, depressingly, once we have kids of our own, we merely graduate from one playground battle to another. All the jocks and goths and nerds have been replaced with crunchies, working moms, same-sex parents, stay-at-home dads, and breastfeeders, and so on...)
A very poignant reminder lies at the heart of the ad. And I won't spoil it for you, if you haven't already seen it. Suffice to say, if we can put aside our sanctimony and particular biases for a moment, it's plain to see that we have a shared goal: doing the best we can to raise the next generation of human beings.
Because we are so much better when we don't cast judgment. Parenting is hard enough without feeling the heat from other parents, or feeling guilty for the informed choices we make.
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I certainly hope Similac's biggest critics (breastfeeding advocates) can take this message at face value. After all, it's not about the hard sell of a product.
But don't take it from me, here's what Similac had to say about its ad:
"We believe it's time to embrace mothers who choose to embrace motherhood. Time to put down the fingers and the subtle suggestions. Because no two of us are the same, but we're all in this together. The sisterhood has only one rule. Nourish each other the same way we nourish our children. And, just like the sister who's got your back, we're there to help you get through the first few days and months of motherhood with confidence—and zero judgment. The way it should be."
In the first few days of its release, the ad has been viewed nearly 4 million times, so someone out there must be listening. No matter what you think of Similac, or infant formula in general, the message is worth hearing.