September 27th, 2021


Half-Baked Hating On Bean Dad

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published Jan. 8, 2021

Half-Baked Hating On Bean Dad
If you saw the thread that was burning up Twitter these last few days (at least before a certain meetup in Washington, D.C.), you read a story almost as long as the six-hour ordeal the dad describes, which began when his daughter wanted some baked beans and the father, John Roderick — aka "Bean Dad" — told her to open a can and heat some up.

The problem?

Said daughter, age 9, had never used a can opener ... and Dad decided not to show her. He would wait out the whole time it took for the girl (who must not have access to YouTube) to finally, desperately figure the dang thing out.

In 23 tweets, since deleted, Bean Dad wrote about every frustrated exchange, e.g.:

"So I said, 'How do you think this works?' She studied it and applied it to the top of the can, sideways. She struggled for a while and with a big, dramatic sigh said, 'Will you please just open the can?' Apocalypse Dad was overjoyed: a Teaching Moment just dropped in my lap!"

When the girl finally did puncture the can, she was triumphant, and Dad was, too.

Then came the commenters.

Like beans exploding from a pressure cooker, they were all over the place. Some praised Pop: Through his tough love, his daughter became resourceful.

But far more were more like, "Godspeed, s—-goblin." (A new word to me, too.)

Pretty soon, the haters came so thick and fast — some calling his actions child abuse — that Bean Dad took down his whole thread. But then came the digging up of his prior tweets, some of which were shockingly racist, anti-Semitic, etc. Or as one tweet put it:

"Bean Dad's daughter is now about 6 hours into watching her dad try to learn how to close a can of worms."

One worm can included the fact that the "My Brother, My Brother and Me" podcast had used a song by The Long Winters, a group Bean Dad sang with in the 2000s. No more.

And, in the category of everything turns out to be strangely connected to everything else, Bean Dad also co-hosted a podcast with all-time Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings.

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In the days since, Bean Dad has apologized for the earlier tweets, saying they were meant to be ironic, and he explained that he and his daughter were laughing and having fun together on Bean Day. So now I'm using Bean Dad as a cultural Rorschach test:

When someone says something you disagree with — is this license to dredge up anything else they've ever said publicly?

In truth, it really interested me to see Bean Dad had posted disgusting tweets ... because it made it much easier for me to categorize him. While I'd considered that maybe there was something plausibly positive in his parenting decision that day — his deep belief in his daughter — once I read his past tweets, I could very easily damn everything he did as cruel and reprehensible. It allowed me to label him, once and for all, as a jerk.

I'm not sure that's something we should be doing, whenever faced with an ambiguous idea or person. Digging back in hopes of finding a character flaw so we can easily despise someone seems to allow us to hate instead of think.

On a somewhat parallel plane: I'm not happy about the pastime of publicly second-guessing parenting decisions. This hobby has had serious real-world repercussions. For instance, sometimes a child is allowed to play outside without supervision, or a child wanders off and it takes a little while for the parent to notice. These are normal situations. But in actual cases like this, onlookers have called Child Protective Services.

Absent real abuse, I'd rather us not be jumping in. Being a virtuous child saver requires actually saving children — not smugly tweeting or siccing the authorities on people we disagree with, dislike or disdain.