Just when I thought no more pressure could be placed on parents to keep our kids healthy, safe, strong and secure (not to mention gainfully employed and ecstatically happy) a new device has been invented: The Parentcam!
I first became aware of this technological nightmare while I was lounging in bed watching the USA Girls Olympics Gymnastics team. As a young athlete named Aly Raisman soared through the air, delighting the world with her spectacular performance, an NBC camera zoomed in on her parents while they squirmed, cringed and bounced around in their seats looking like they were in agony.
"This is a Saturday Night Live skit," I said my husband. "Look at these people!"
The next day, the Raismans' performance was broadcast over the airwaves almost as often as their daughter's.
The first few times I watched, I smugly thought to myself, "I would never be caught on camera freaking out about my children like that!" My two sons are almost 22 and 26. They travel around the country to work and play. They're young adults in committed relationships, paying their own rent.
But then humility took hold. What if a Parentcam had followed me everywhere just a few years ago? I cringed at the thought. Here are three scenes from my own parenting saga that might have amused millions of viewers:
I'm pacing the floor of Mt. Sinai Hospital's maternity ward in Manhattan at 3 A.M. on the night before I bring my first son home from the hospital. "How do parents do this?" I ask the puzzled nurse who wonders if I'm alright. "Do what?" she asks. "How do they bring children home and raise them?" I wail. (She shrugs and walked away.)
I'm very carefully writing down a list of exactly what I must do in order to bathe my 10-day-old son properly. My first order of business? "With undershirt and diapers on, use cotton ball to wipe warm water gently over his closed eyes..."
I'm sitting by a pool at my local Y, watching a group of nursery school children as they're taught how to swim. A psychologist approaches me and suggests that I might want to give my younger son (my anxiety did not decrease with each child) some space. "He's afraid to swim!" I tell her. "He wants me here!"
A Parentcam would surely have embarrassed me and my children countless times, while amusing millions. But if I'd had a camera recording the advice of the nursery school psychologist who ambushed me by that pool long ago, her words of wisdom would certainly have gone viral.
Here, in a nutshell, is what she taught me: We can't always save our children from pain. We can try our very best to take good care of them. But sometimes they need to fall, brush themselves off and get back up again. On their own two feet. Sometimes they actually need to fall numerous times. And fail.
While Aly Raisman was soaring to victory at the Olympics, another spectacular gymnast, Jordyn Wieber, made a few small mistakes and failed to qualify for the individual all around event. She bravely wiped away tears and displayed enormous poise as she spoke to the press about her disappointing performance. Days later, she showed the world what she was made of as she led her team to a gold medal.
With or without a Parentcam hovering around them, children need to experience not only bumps in the road, but heartbreak, fear, embarrassment and disappointment. "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf," is one of my favorite Buddhist teachings. I'm not a great swimmer, but over the years, my sons have managed to learn how to body surf pretty well. (Their father and our beloved golden retriever were good teachers.)
It's easy to criticize parents, but if a camera had been recording my every move when my children were younger, I doubt I would have won an Olympic medal for parenting. I wouldn't have even qualified for numerous events (skiing, for instance).
NBC recently ran a montage featuring the parents of Olympic athletes from all around the world. The Raismans were in good company. Mothers and fathers laughed, cried, cringed, cheered and slunk deep down in their seats as they watched their children boldly and bravely compete on the world stage.
What would your most embarrassing Parentcam moment be?
Feel free to submit one below. But don't worry. This event will not be scored. No medals will be awarded or taken away,
Certainly not by me.
For more by Priscilla Warner, click here.
Priscilla Warner co-authored The New York Times bestseller "The Faith Club." Her new memoir, "Learning to Breathe -- My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life", is published by Free Press. Follow her on twitter on facebook or on her website.