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Back off — Melissa Joan Hart shouldn’t be attacked for her kid’s pacifier

Melissa Joan Hart may be celebrating the 100th episode of her hit ABC Family series Melissa & Joey, but the actress isn’t all smiles these days — a recent reaction online to a photo of her son has Hart seeing red.

The “problem”

Two weeks ago, Hart posted this precious photo of her 2-year-old son Tucker (adorable name alert!) to Instagram, referencing the little boy’s cute Al-Bundy-hand-in-his-pants pose.

My immediate reaction, not unlike your own, probably, was, “Awwww, he’s so cute!” Cliché, yes. But also unequivocally true — that kid is adorable.

Had Hart not appeared on HuffPost Live to promote Melissa & Joey, my thoughts likely never would have wandered to the pacifier in Tucker’s mouth. But after hearing Hart talk about the harsh criticism she received from online haters after posting the pic, I felt compelled to see what all the fuss was about.

Accusatory tweets like this one, well, they were just the tip of the iceberg. Hart was lampooned by social media followers for allowing her 2-year-old son to continue self-soothing with a pacifier. As social media trolls often do, they got downright ugly in their opinions on the matter.

And Hart isn’t taking the criticism lying down. “I’ve learned that I just have to be me. It’s my page — if you don’t like it, go away!” the mom of three told HuffPost Live during the March 17 interview. “Everybody thinks they can tell you what to do. If they have the guts to say it to my face, I think I have the guts to punch ’em.”

So who was blowing this situation out of proportion? Hart or the haters?

The real problem

In this mommy blogger’s opinion, the haters. ‘Cause here’s the thing: it’s always going to be something, right? Moms in this modern day and age can’t win for losing. No matter what we do, we’re going to be judged for something by someone. So I’m with Hart — to hell with the haters.

As the parent of two kids under 4, I’m well aware of how judgmental others can be about parenting choices. In this instance, though, I had no reference point. Neither of my children ever took to a paci (even though at times I desperately wished they would).

A quick poll of other parents on social media revealed exactly what I suspected it might: all kids are different, all parents are different and, most of all, that it is mind-boggling that people would waste their time and energy criticizing a woman who by all accounts is a good, loving mother, when there are far worse travesties befalling children all over the world.

Plus — surprise! — there is no magic, universally accepted age for ditching the pacifier. When asked what ages their own kids kicked the habit, the parents I polled responded all over the spectrum.

The consensus

Heath Brady, one of the few fathers who responded, said he and his wife took their two boys’ bottles and pacifiers away at only 1, and he had strong opinions about older kids being allowed to use them. “From my standpoint, it’s laziness on the parents’ side,” he said. “It’s easier to put it in their mouth than discipline or make them understand pacifiers and bottles are for babies.”

Mackie Moore, whose children were 5 and 3 when they gave up their pacifiers, disagrees.

“Why if a child walks and talks should they not have a pacifier except for sleep?” she questions. “To me, it’s all about comfort, safety and security, and if a pacifier provides an extra level of comfort in this crazy world, I say suck away. Probably makes for a more stable adult.”

In fact, most of the parents who responded said their kids were between 2 and 3 when they finally gave theirs up. Several cited the fact that their own doctors and pediatricians gave them no reason to be concerned, and orthodontia is generally only an issue if a child relies on a paci past the age of 4.

The bottom line

Most of the parents who weighed in did seem to agree that 4 and older was pushing it, but nearly all agreed that the bottom line is this: Every parent has the right to decide what is best for their child.

As Christine Rice, a mother of two sums it up, “You have to pick your battles with kids, and only their parents know which are worth fighting.”

The social media feedback in response to Hart’s post wasn’t all bad, either. Many moms showed their support for Hart with encouraging words or by sharing their own stories.

Said totallyterrificintexas, “Oh my gosh! Can’t believe the drama over a binky! My little guy used a binky until four and he’s just fine!”

sunshineandwildair echoed that sentiment, saying, “My son is three and a half and he still has his paci, I could care less what people say, he’s not their child. I hate that mamas are being criticized for raising their children the way they see fit.#untilyouwalkinourshoesshutup :-)”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all spent more time building each other up like this, rather than tearing each other down? I’ve been working since I was a teenager and I can say, hands down, that parenting is the toughest “job” out there. As parents, we all share an intrinsic bond. My hope for the future is that we use our words to strengthen that bond as opposed to severing it.

Melissa, honey, do your thing. As Taylor Swift would say, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” Just keep shakin’ ’em off.

What do you think? Was the feedback justified, or were the commenters just using social media to pass judgment? Weigh in below.

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