Two weeks ago Greg Pembroke, a dad of two boys in Rochester, NY, posted a series of photos of his sons on a Tumblr titled “Reasons my son is crying” that has since gone viral. Mr. Pembroke found that instant fame is a greater strain than parenting through a toddler meltdown. He tells The Christian Science Monitor he may have also stumbled upon a cure for the toddler meltdown: Take a picture and show it to your child.
“I wasn’t looking for a solution and people offering advice and armchair diagnosis should know I also wasn’t looking for a cure,” Pembroke told me today. “But I accidentally found that just by taking a picture it usually ends the meltdown because the kids love to see themselves and it distract them and the storm ends.”
Pembroke, who writes commercials for Stephens Media Group radio station, and his wife have two boys William, 3, and Charlie, 21-months. And as any parent might do, he began documenting the commonplace meltdowns two weeks ago in pictures which he posted along with witty captions to his Facebook. One caption of a weeping Charlie reads, “He’s crying because I wouldn’t let him drown in this pond,” while another documents the moment he wept “because the milk isn’t juice.”
Pembroke said his friends wanted more photos, but no one wants to be the parent over-sharing on Facebook so Pembroke looked for another venue to post the photos and a friend suggested Tumblr. He thought the move would actually decrease visibility.
“I really wasn’t looking for any of this,” Pembroke said. “It’s just completely bizarre. I want everyone to know they can stop diagnosing the boys now, they’re fine. Charlie’s not autistic, there’s no weird food allergy causing their noses to run. Oh, and no, William’s not dehydrated and that’s not what’s causing him to cry. Wow! They’re just normal kids crying over normal things.”
Pembroke says he can’t wait for the spotlight to turn away from his family because, frankly, he’s feeling a bit fried by the unsolicited advice many have posted on various message boards as a result of the photos of his children which, admittedly, are all crying shots. While he appreciates the fact that he struck America’s funny bone, he would like people to stop backseat parenting his boys.
“They don’t cry all the time or have tantrums like some people think,” Pembroke explained. “They’re 10 second fits of frustration that I just snap a picture of and then they’re back to all smiles.”
Pembroke also said his visit to Good Morning America with the boys (where he was chagrined to be met on camera by an expert billed as The Baby Whisperer) was not about fame, but a free mini vacation. “[GMA] offered to fly us to New York City, and the boys love planes. They offered to put us up in a hotel, and the boys really love hotels. So we went, but that’s IT! No more.”
On a happy note, this dad was inspired by a site that also inspires me in many ways, Humans of New York (HONY), a photo and caption website by Brandon Stanton. Mr. Stanton has walked the streets of New York every day since September 2010, making portraits of strangers with a goal to create a photographic census of the city with 10,000 photos on an interactive online map.
“I was inspired by HONY,” Pembroke explained. “I’ve been on it every day for over a year and it’s just so beautiful. Just taking shots of regular people with a quick witty, or inspiring caption. “
Pembroke said the best thing that came out of his family’s instant fame was the fact that when he reached out to Stanton while in NY for a visit with Good Morning America, Stanton shot a picture of Charlie this week. Yes, the child was crying. The picture, of course, made it onto the Pembroke Tumblr feed.
“The boy (Charlie) was completely normal and laughed far more than he cried, but when he did cry, Dad would quite secretly snap a quick shot,” Stanton wrote in an e-mail this morning. “They were very down-to-earth parents, and definitely not interested in being famous. A small page they made for friends went viral, and now they're ready to get back to normal. All around good people.”
Unfortunately, Stanton isn’t getting the kind of viral traction as Pembroke who, after just a week and 600,000 Tumblr views, is all over the news.
“Please stress that this was all an accident. I was just taking pictures of my kids and ... do people really look for this to happen like this?” Pembroke said. “I wish everyone would shift their focus to HONY and just forget me.”