Viral

An open tin of baked beans on the kitchen work top.
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A Month-To-Month Guide Of 2021's Most Viral Parenting Moments

From Bean Dad to TikTok moms, it’s been quite the year.

As we reach the denouement of 2021, another tumultuous, unpredictable year, it is only natural that we should reflect on the moments that made the year bearable. I’m talking, of course, about viral trends, specifically the viral parenting moments. They made us laugh, they made us cry (good and bad tears) and very often they made us go “Are. You. Kidding. Me?!” but, like in a way that we just couldn’t stop engaging with, talking about, or sharing on our social media pages. (Because that’s how viral moments work.)

We wanted to take a stroll down Memory Lane with a month by month look of what was on our collective minds at the time. We have to admit that there were some we’d completely forgotten about (that’s also how viral moments work), but we’re (mostly) so glad we’ve remembered them for this retrospective. Because, good or bad, they all gave us opportunities to come together as a parenting community and commiserate, laugh knowingly, or get snarky, smug, and a little bit judgmental (we try not to do it a lot but let's not pretend it never happens).

So while there was a lot going on this year — socially, politically, and otherwise — here are some of our favorite parenting moments.

January | “Bean Dad”

Adam Lister/Moment Open/Getty Images

We don’t need to say anything more than “Bean Dad” for you to suddenly remember that whole mess. (Though we will give you a minute to say “OMG, Bean Dad was in 2021? That feels like forever ago!”)

Yes, 2021 was a newborn baby year when musician and podcast host John Roderick shared the story of making his child figure out a can opener on Twitter. On the surface this sounds innocuous enough, but went viral in the details: like the fact that the task took six hours and the callous, frustrating, and frankly kind of weird responses and guidance he gave his 9-year-old, including: "Sweetheart, neither of us will eat another bite today until we get into this can of beans."

Things went from bad to worse when Twitter users, upset with the story, dug up a collection of racist and explicit tweets from years before. Though Roderick apologized and left Twitter, he returned to the platform in March, though nowadays he tweets infrequently.

February | That Realistic Breastfeeding Ad From FridaMom

During the Golden Globes, Frida Mom, which makes postpartum care products for new moms, aired an ad that depicted realistic representations of breastfeeding from the perspective of two new moms. Though the ad did not air in its entirety (Frida worked with NBC-Universal to trim down the 75-second spot to 30 seconds, blurring nipples along the way) the spirit of the original ad remained very much in place. The tagline that closes both versions of the ad — "Care for your breasts. Not just your baby." — highlights realities that are often overlooked in discussions of nursing. Nursing (and formerly nursing) parents praised the ad for it’s accuracy.

"Looking at this ad on the realities of #breastfeeding is so important," tweeted @ProfASGabriel. "Looking back, my struggles with breastfeeding and pumping were huge contributors to my PPA/PPD. We need more honest, authentic representation of #motherhood."

March | Little Girl Belts Out Selena Songs, Stunning Her Dad

Maliya Kabs and her dad went viral in March for a video posted to the family’s YouTube page. Amid a discussion of the various languages the two speak, her father cheekily claims having been able to speak Japanese, Chinese, and 10 other languages when he was her age. Maliya looks at him skeptically before changing the subject “Can I just put on my songs?”

What follows is the tot confidently belting out Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” (an absolute banger, btw) as her dad stares in disbelief. “How do you know this song?”

“Canta!” she implores, holding out an imaginary microphone to him. “It means sing!”

She follows up with an equally heartfelt rendition of “Como La Flor.” We stan this wee British legend.

April | Katie Sorensen Charged With Lying To The Police About Kidnapping Attempt

In December of 2020, influencer Katie Sorensen shared frightening allegations of an attempted kidnapping on Instagram, quickly going viral and sparking renewed conversations about child trafficking. Within days, however, Petaluma police announced the allegation against local parents Eddie and Sadie Martinez was without merit. In April 2021, the former momfluencer went viral again, this time when Sonoma County prosecutors announced Sorensen would face two misdemeanor charges, including giving false information to the police, and may face up to a year in jail.

Sadie Martinez has expressed disappointment with Sorensen’s choice to plead “not guilty.”

“I assumed she was gonna plead not guilty,” she told the Argus-Courier in July, “but deep down inside, it’s just disappointing because she’s sticking to her lie, and now she’s playing the victim.”

Sorensen’s trial date will be set in January 2022.

May | Girl Asks For Birthday Cake So Sad She Won’t Have To Share

I think we all know that 3-year-olds are a diabolically clever lot, but Minneapolis’ own Leona Feigh took it to a whole new level with her odd choice of birthday cake, which went viral when her uncle, Casey Feigh, posted about it on Twitter. “My niece turned 3 today!!” he wrote. “She asked for a Lion King cake but specifically the moment where Mufasa dies, because ‘everyone will be too sad to eat the cake and it will be all for me.’”

And the internet collectively stopped in horror before laughing hysterically. Just... what an absolute power move and precocious understanding of human emotions. The little evil genius described the cake as “so yummy, so yummy” to KCTV5 News. Next year’s cake theme: Cinderella and her Wicked Stepmother.

June | Mom Catches Baseball While Holding Baby At Padres Game

On June 9, Lexy Whitmore became a metaphor for mothers everywhere. When a foul ball went into the crowd at a San Diego Padres game, Whitmore caught the ball with one hand while holding her 3-month-old son, Maverick, in the other. Whitmore was ecstatic, the crowd was amazed, and Maverick was the very definition of “unbothered,” casually gnawing on his wee little fists.

Whitmore told FOX 11 that she plays softball that she honed the skill while practicing softball with her 9-year-old daughter named Lily. “We would be practicing and playing catch, and I would have Maverick in my arm.”

It was truly a mom-flex for the ages.

July | Mom “Wins” Ugly Baby Contest On TikTok

It’s an open secret among parents that babies can be ugly. It’s not a value judgment! It’s just a fact of life that some buns come out of the oven... under-baked. Lucy Baehr’s reaction to her baby, born (in her words) with an extremely swollen nose and beady eyes, was “At least she’s healthy!”

So when TikTok began an “Ugly Baby” challenge in July, Baehr knew it was her and Reese’s time to shine. People laughed (good naturedly) that wee Reece looked like Dobby from Harry Potter, Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, and a Minecraft villager, among others.

“Kids either come out all angelic like they were dropped off from heaven, or they look like they just went through serious trauma,” Baehr told Today. “I think it's hilarious that people think Reese looks like a Minecraft villager.”

But, as pretty much all ugly newborns do, Reese had a total glow-up, which goes to show you can’t judge someone’s looks fresh out of the birth canal.

August | Tennessee Mom’s Letter To School Board Goes Viral

Maskot/Maskot/Getty Images

Days before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee announced that masks would be “required” among staff and students, but that parents could opt their child out of the mandate simply by filling out a form. On unidentified Chatanooga mother highlighted the absurdity, and her email to the district went viral when it was shared by Twitter user @markmobility .

“I am writing to request the parent opt-out form to opt-out of the school dress code,” she wrote. “As the parent of a daughter at East Hamilton, I find the school’s dress code policy to be misogynistic and detrimental to the self-esteem of young women. ... In light of the opt-out option related to the recently announce mask mandate, I can only assume that parents are now in a position to pick and choose the school policies to which their child should be subject [sic].”

The mother went on to say that her feminist principles motivated her “opt-out” of dress code, and that her daughter should not under any circumstances be subjected to dress code policy, and should be allowed to wear leggings, spaghetti straps, cut offs, or anything else that makes her feel comfortable.

September | The Return of Steve From Blue’s Clues

Often when things go viral it’s because they’re funny or audacious. But every now and then, something goes viral and it is so wholesome and so good.

Guys. Remember when Steve from Blue’s Clues came back to tell us he was sorry he left us so abruptly and that he was proud of us? And remember how, for one shining moment, the pandemic and stress of adulthood seems to melt away and we felt happy and loved and seen? And then we went absolutely wild on Twitter in a cathartic, communal happy cry because he never forgot us ever?

It was magic.

OK, this one is not strictly speaking a parenting moment, but considering the fact that Blue’s Clues is a children’s show and, moreover, one many, many a Millennial parent watched as a child, we’re absolutely counting it.

October | Grade-School Kids Worldwide Start Playing Squid Game

Noh Juhan | Netflix

Debuting on Netflix in September, the Korean survival drama Squid Game was a swift, international hit. The show is the story of 456 severely indebted people competing in a series of children’s games for a chance to win ₩45.6 billion (or about $38.5 million) under the watchful eye of a cadre of masked, uniformed soldiers. The catch? Losers pay with their lives. So something like a simple game of “Red Light, Green Light” or marbles turns into a massacre, blood and bullets flying.

But while the show is rated TV-MA, the show gained popularity even among young children. Schools from Belgium to Australia, England to Singapore reported children imitating the show, either by pretending to shoot one another during Red, Light Green Light (an iconic scene from the first episode) or even punching one another.

It was a good reminder to families all over the world about parental controls...

November | Mom Gives Birth On Front Lawn & The Ring Cam Saw It All

Emily and her husband, Michael, were eager to meet their second child, and Emily was “really, really eager to be done” with her pregnancy. Well, some trickster god heard her wish and her labor progressed from “steady” to “contractions every minute” very quickly. When her mother, Kristy Sparks, arrived to watch the couple’s older child, Emily and Michael went quickly out to the car. When she opened the door, Emily realized she wasn’t going to be able to make it to the hospital.

Thomas was born on the front lawn, caught by his grandmother, in the presence of an emergency crew and, of course, the porch Ring camera, which caused his accidental home-birth to go viral.

“I’m just thankful I was facing that direction,” quipped Emily with KCRA 3, who can only be seen in profile in the footage. “Because otherwise I don’t think we’d be able to share the video footage with anybody!”

December | TikTok Influencer Sparks Controversy From Son’s Hospital Room

Popular family TikToker Whitney Leavitt went viral when she posted a video from her baby's hospital room. In the clip, which has been viewed nearly 4 million times across TikTok (where it has since been removed) and Twitter (where it has been re-shared by multiple users), she kisses the child and then performs a short dance to "Love" by Kendrick Lamar as on-screen text explains that her son was brought to the hospital low on oxygen and tested positive for RSV, a serious virus that causes inflammation in the lungs and airways. “Waiting for him to breathe better on his own,” she concludes.

Reaction was mixed, though overwhelmingly negative. Even as users offered condolences to Leavitt and her family, many were jarred that she would post a video of herself dancing and smiling as her child struggled to breathe. Some, however, suggested that she shouldn’t be judged considering the stress of the situation. (Others still suggested the video was a concerted effort to go viral and profit off the controversy.) In a tearful follow-up video, Leavitt explained that she was “just trying to be positive,” though she could understand viewers could “get the wrong idea.”