Bad Parenting, Albert Pujols, and The YouTube Temptation

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My daughter just turned five, and her favorite baseball player is Jose Reyes. In her lexicon, anyone with dreads has “Jose hair.” (We went to a Pirates-Mets game earlier this year and she mistook a Jumbotron projection of Andrew McCutchen for him.) She has done the ritual Jose-Jose-Jose chant in the CitiField stands many times. When she found out he lived not that far from our house in Queens, she asked if she could go see him. (She thought we could just invite ourselves over for a playdate, apparently.) She has told me more than once, since the regular season ended, that she misses him.

I haven’t told her yet that Jose Reyes will not play for the Mets next season, that the days of hopping on the 7 train and watching him play any time we feel like it are over. I don’t know exactly how she’ll react to this news but I do know it won’t make her happy, and since this is not a matter of life and death, I prefer to delay making her unhappy for as long as I can.

That’s why I was so angry about a video that circulated widely (and which was, mercifully, taken down on Friday morning) after Albert Pujols officially spurned the Cardinals to sign with the Angels. In it, a dad tells his son (who looks about the same age as my daughter) the news. Of course the kid is distraught, but Dad Of The Year makes sure to hammer the questions at his child—”How does that make you feel?”—and tell him Pujols is going to play in California for more money, until his son bursts into angry tears. Still, The Great Santini keeps his camera running, unflinchingly, even when the kid says he just wants to go home, so he can wring every drop of agony out of the moment and into the lens.

This father chose to break the bad news about the departure of his child’s favorite player. Once you make that choice, you have deal with the consequences of that choice: a sniffling child in need of your comfort. But rather than provide that comfort, this father continues to film all the pain for nearly two minutes, equivalent to an eternity for a small child. Every second he chose to film his kid’s agony rather than salve is torture.

The sound of my daughter crying goes through me like a knife. Even if she’s wailing because she’s been punished or given a timeout, it hurts my heart to hear it. I want to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and try to make her laugh so she’ll forget her pain. If I had to deliver a hard truth to her, I’d make sure to steel myself for her tears and anger.

One thing I wouldn’t do: Film myself delivering it at a remove while narrating her hurt for an audience. If somehow this moment had been filmed, I sure as hell wouldn’t post her soul-crushing experience online for all the world to see. Not even if I thought it might make Albert Pujols feel bad about accepting an amount of money no sane person would turn down.

The internet is full of videos taken by parents that feature kids acting goofy or dopey or in any myriad of ways that will surely embarrass them in their teen years (see: David After Dentist). But none of these videos, as far as I know, depict a child reacting to earth-shattering bad news. Last I checked, there’s no YouTube montage of kids hearing Santa Claus isn’t real or being told they have to move to another city.

That’s the sort of video this father made. He not only filmed the worst moment so far in his child’s life, but he made sure the universe could witness it. As in the medical profession, the primary rule of parenting is first, do no harm. That rule was brutally violated in this instance, and for what? Maybe making Albert Pujols feel bad? What was the endgame here, and in what universe was it worth the tradeoff?

The video has since been removed, and I hope that’s because the father since realized how monstrous it was. Even if that is the case, however, I fear the damage has already been done, and not by a certain slugger who just signed a big free agent contract. If this little boy grows up to hate baseball, don’t blame Pujols, buddy. Just look in the mirror.

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