Screenshot: Kristy Ralphs (YouTube)

If you’re a parent, one of the bonuses is that you often find your child doing amusing things. Some of those things are only funny to your own family (we still ask my daughter to make the “unicorn face” she created as a toddler, because it never fails to crack us up), some may be funny to other people. And sometimes those things may involve possible bodily harm: a soft pratfall off the couch, say, or a resounding belly flop in the pool. These things are hilarious. This is why America’s Funniest Home Videos has been on the air since Methuselah was a mere boy.

So I am torn over this editorial in The Guardian today, entitled, “Experience: I got my head stuck in a pumpkin” by Rachel Ralphs. I can’t think of a headline I’ve ever clicked on faster. It is an unnerving tale of a girl and a giant pumpkin, who got her head stuck in a video that wound up going viral. But reading this fun seasonal article, I was struck by who made that video viral: her mother.

Ralphs forgets what spurred her on to put the pumpkin on her head exactly—something about proving to her brother that her pumpkin was larger than his. But I’m claustrophobic just reading what happened afterward:

It was only when I tried to remove my head that I realized getting out was going to be less straightforward than getting in. The knot of my ponytail caught against the rim when I tried to pull out, as did the underside of my jaw. When I pulled my chin into my neck, my nose got in the way instead. I felt a jab of panic as I braced against the table and moved my head around trying to find the right angle, but it was no use. “I can’t get it out!” I roared, my voice sounding unnaturally loud in the enclosed space.

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Even with her ensuing panic in the four-minute video, Ralphs can hear her mother, “unruffled and amused,” who advises her, “Don’t use up all your oxygen.” The mom encourages one of the other kids to get their dad, while telling the camera, “This is how we roll… total chaos.” Ralphs wonders why her mother isn’t helping her, then realizes that her mom is filming the whole thing.

Ralphs’ dad suggests calling the fire department, although Rachel protests. There is talk of a Sawzall. The video does cut out before the rescue (which was accomplished at home by rearranging Rachel’s ponytail), but the mom soon uploads her daughter’s four minutes of anguish to Facebook, then YouTube, so that Rachel and her pumpkin became minor Halloween celebrities. Here’s Rachel, post-pumpkin escape:

As a parent, a few things stand out: Ralphs was already a teenager, which makes for a different kid of predicament than you’d have if this happened to a more terrified small child. And the pumpkin hole was fortunately big enough so that Ralphs really wasn’t in danger of suffocating; she wasn’t unconscious or anything (although judging by her shrieking, she was pretty uncomfortable). But the video did go viral enough so that Rachel to get recognized from the pumpkin video at camp the following summer.

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I dunno. I talk about my kids a lot on here (and thank you for reading!) but hopefully I don’t mention anything that is going to give them a life-altering nickname or that paints them in a really bad light. My kids think it’s fun that they’re in some YouTube videos, but they’re not highlighted negatively like those kids crying over their parents eating their Halloween candy on Jimmy Kimmel. Or that poor 6-year-old who’s currently making headlines after no one came to his birthday party and his mom shared a post about it on Facebook; I don’t care how many free basketball games he gets to go to, that shit’s embarrassing. (For the record, that mom now says she regrets the post, never expecting to it to go as viral as it has.)

And it’s not like her online notoriety helped Rachel Ralphs learned her lesson or anything; she points out that she got stuck in a laundry basket just a few months later. Other than a few moments of YouTube fame, I don’t see how the ensuing offspring humiliation would be worth it. On the other hand, if it’s tough love that stops your kids from making dumb decisions... net positive?

Where do you stand, parents?

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