By Joanna Roughton.
In 2007 my jaw dropped and my tummy heaved with laughter as I watched an internet revelation. It was courtesy of an American Christian comedian, Anita Renfroe.
Drawing on her experience as a mother of three, she took all the things that a mum might typically say to her children in the course of a day – and then set them to the William Tell Overture.
The result – the Mom Song – is simply brilliant and has been viewed millions of times on Youtube.
This week I was again left wonderstruck at the apparent ingenuity of another mother. As with the Mom Song, it comes to us via the internet.
Unlike the widely shared Renfroe video, I can’t vouch for the provenance of this post-it. Under the headline – ‘Mumbelievable” – Britain’s Sun newspaper carried the story, without attributing it to any particular individual.
But be that as it may. Let’s assume this was an authentic attempt by a savvy mum to get the kids to do their chores.
My first thought, a little disgracefully, was – ‘why didn’t I think of that?’. However, as a ruse, this is one that requires some effort on the part of the mother, albeit just a picture taken on her smartphone, with a few words scribbled on a note.
It is a sophisticated act of virtual nagging.
And, like all the most effective acts of parental chivvying, it requires a gentle form of blackmail.
Indeed, there is something slightly underworld about it. Requiring a photo to be texted each day showing a new object to establish its originality is the stuff of hostage demands, where a newspaper – showing today’s date – is included in the picture of a detainee to prove that they are still alive.
It’s that hint of menace which gives this post-it note – and many of our more efficacious threats as parents – the power to persuade unruly children to do what we want, not what they want.
And this smartphone variation has an additional element for the modern age. By using our children’s addiction to the internet, this mother sets up a reward system which really works.
I would love to know more about who came up with the post-it idea.
It smacks of someone who works in internet security, perhaps a computer programmer who works in the burgeoning area of online validation, who has seen an opportunity to ‘read across’ from work to home.
Was it in fact a mother at all? “Today’s WIFi password can be unlocked by texting a photo of a clean kitchen to mum”, says the opening line on the post-it. Perhaps it was one of ‘mum’s’ grown-up children, or a husband.
Who knows. It really doesn’t matter. As with the magnificent Mom Song, we have the internet – not always a force for positive change – to thank for showing parents a new way to smile at the challenges of parenthood.