Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Real or staged mess?

Checking one of my email accounts today, I saw a link to this video. I've had a few children of my own, and have cleaned up some spectacular disasters in my time, so I decided to "waste" several minutes watching the film.

Just for clarification, the story behind the movie is as follows. A young mother, Mary Napoli of some city in Michigan, emerged from the bathroom the other day, having been absent from her two toddlers' immediate presence for no more than 5 minutes (she had not been feeling well) to discover the little boys, aged 1 and 3, happily playing in 5 lb. of flour they had just finishing dumping all over the living room. She filmed the scene of the crime and then posted it on YouTube.

It was intriguing  how many people commenting on this video insisted that there was NO way two children as young as this could make this kind of a mess on their own. I'd say the overwhelming majority used the words "fake" or "staged."

A second and slightly smaller contingent, allowing grudgingly that kids could be pretty awful sometimes, chose to let fly at the mother's parenting skills for having failed to prevent them from doing so.

An even smaller group criticised her for not swearing at and then punishing the kids before (or instead of) filming them as they finished gleefully distributing the flour around the room and proceeded to wallow in it. To them, this either proved that the movie was staged (what real-life mother would NOT swear at her children and whale the tar out of them, faced with such an appalling mess?) or gave incriminating evidence that she was an ineffectual parent (see paragraph above.)

Those who took a more moderate view, saying things such as, "I believe it; I can remember my own mother acting exactly like this," or "You wanna hear my story of what MY kids did one day??" were the smallest group of all. My guess is that they could easily be counted on the fingers of one hand. Or, possibly, two. And that probably includes the comments I posted myself.

Summing it up, the conclusion of the majority seems to be that, obviously, the video is a fake; the mother is a publicity-seeking idiot who trashed her own living room and made her
innocent toddlers look like the culprits, in order to get worldwide attention. As one person observed, "i guess these days people will use their kids for almost anything to receive attention or their 15 seconds of fame. Pathatic." (sic)

(The above quote is taken directly from the Yahoo! page. Just for the record: the following "quotes" are not cut and pasted verbatim, but have been combined from a good many comments in the same vein. If you want to read the actual comments, you're welcome to visit the YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1noY1NTiF0 or the Yahoo! page: http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/video--boys-dump-flour-all-over-house-in-an-unusually-uniformly-messy-way.html)

The "bad parenting" comments were particularly revealing. According to her admiring public, the occurrence of such a disaster indicates this mom was either too permissive with her kids ("My dad would have beat me black and blue if I'd tried a stunt like this!"--hopefully a severe or perhaps a humorous exaggeration) or criminally negligent ("She's a terrible mother if she left them alone long enough for them to make this kind of a mess!"--translation: "good" moms never use the bathroom during their children's waking hours, even when ill, unless they chain the kids to their high chairs first.) However, if a poll were taken, it would show that most people simply dismiss this video as having been staged by the mother.

Well...whether or not this was "staged"--and I will admit, it could have been staged--I have no problem believing such a thing could also, in fact, actually happen. I've known enough kids over the years to have heard some hair-raisingly similar stories.

To those who said, "Obviously staged--she sounds so phony, just repeating the same phrase in a monotone over and over"--well, she sounds pretty realistic to me. She's not a bad mother, or even a bad actor. To me, she sounds like a woman in shock.  Not every woman screams, yells and becomes violent when faced with the kind of mess the nicest kids can get into in those few minutes when your back is turned. Sometimes when it's really horrible you just get really, really quiet......
The flour on the walls and pictures could have drifted there from the way the kids were tossing that bag around. Comments stated that, among other things, there was no way there could have been flour on the picture frames and the molding over the door, from children that small. Here's another criticism: "The flour is so uniformly spread around the room--obviously the mom herself did it just for the video." (In which case the mother is not just publicity-hungry--she's crazy. Have you ever tried to clean up flour that has been rubbed into upholstery?) Followed by, "Hey! Look! She missed the back of the rocking chair! HA!" I can imagine these kids were enchanted by the effect they were getting, and scattered it as far as possible. It's what I--er, I mean, lots of kids--would have done, at that age. 
And no, maybe the kids didn't realise right away what big trouble they were in. ("Kids know when they've been bad, and freak out when Mom catches them at it; these kids are perfectly calm.") However, if you listen, you can hear it beginning to register..."What's the matter, Mommy?...What's the matter?..." They were having LOTS of fun before she walked in, but they are beginning to pick up from her reaction that All Is Not Well. Doesn't anyone remember what it was like, being a kid, doing something awful and not realising till it's, well, just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit too late that you have really pulled a bad one?
Others said it was unlikely that any adult would simply walk around filming the mess before punishing the kids and getting it all cleaned up as fast as possible. Try this scenario instead: Mom opened the door, took a few steps, saw what was going on, and realised she had a decision to make:
a) She could scream, yell, confine the kids behind a baby gate in the bedroom or somewhere (maybe at a neighbour's house would be better, now that I think of it―or, let’s see, how far away does Grandma live, and would she keep the little darlings overnight?) and clean everything up, and then have people say to her, "There's no way it could have been that bad. My, you do make up some amazing stories!" All she would have is the memory of that day.
b) Or, being a young mother of the 21st century with access to the latest technology, she could put her emotions on hold for a minute or two longer (hey, the bag is almost empty, the damage has been done...) and then calmly fetch her camcorder or her cell phone, retrace her steps to the bathroom door, push the button and start walking. Showing the world just what SHE saw at that first moment. Carefully going around the whole room filming, leaving out no detail--not the flour splashed on the lampshade, not the sprinkles on the framed pictures, not the kids joyfully making patterns in the flour with their hands or emptying the last of the bag over their heads. I'll bet she wasn't even aware that she was moaning "Oh. My gosh. Oh, my gosh..." over and over again. But somewhere deep inside all that shock, she still had a sense of humour. Already she was laying plans for what she would do AFTER she filmed it all (and then screamed, yelled, confined the kids outside the disaster area--I suggest that depending on her assessment of the level of their accountability, there might also be some disciplinary procedures at this point-- and, finally, cleaned everything up.)
"First I'll show it to Daddy when he gets home. Then, I'll email it to Grandma. After that, I'll post it for everyone else I know on Facebook. And then, fifteen or twenty years from now--the kids probably won't even remember this day!--I'll get it out and share it at their graduations...wait, how about their weddings?"
I wish she lived in my neighbourhood. I'd like to get to know her as she raises those little boys. She has a sense of humour, AND she keeps her temper in desperate circumstances. Modern technology aside, this is just the way many of the best of mothers have behaved through the ages. There is yet hope for the younger generation. You go, girl!
Meanwhile, she has posted the day of her disaster on the Internet so others could get a kick out of it, and everyone is saying "There's no way it could have been that bad. My, you do make up some amazing stories." Ha ha.


Anonymous said...

Oh my God--oh wow. Ahaha. That is...amazing. Equal parts hilarious and horrifying. :D The kids are behaving exactly like little kids that age do, and I can completely believe that they did it themselves. (As for how high the flour flew--flour does that. It gets EVERYWHERE.) At least most of her floor is wood??

Barbara Bell said...

That's right--it all looks like hard-surface flooring, with a couple of throw rugs. And the flour was dry. I knew a woman once whose little girls, who were perhaps 2 and 4 at the time, rubbed either oatmeal-and-water or flour-and-water paste all over her brand-new living room carpet, recently installed. It took the mom several hours to get it all cleaned up. Even the little girls couldn't explain their actions when she asked them where on earth they got such an idea.