Welcome to a new year, one and all! Though it will still be many weeks and months until we begin returning to relative normalcy, many people have expressed a sense of hope that 2021 will be an improvement over the year we left behind. Those hopeful people probably haven’t wandered over to Twitter in recent days, where the discourse has turned to the topics of baked beans, can openers, and best practices for raising children. And yes, those topics incite more ire than you’d think.
Singer and podcast host John Roderick posted a long Twitter thread on Saturday explaining how his 9-year-old daughter’s inability to use a can opener became a teachable moment for Roderick as a father.
Over the course of 23 tweets, Roderick explains that he didn’t want to simply show his daughter how to use the can opener—teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, and all that—so instead, he laid down the terms: “Sweetheart, neither of us will eat another bite today until we get into this can of beans.” The 9-year-old is depicted in Roderick’s story as increasingly frustrated and hungry, yet for what Roderick claims was “SIX HOURS on and off,” she was instructed by her father to keep at it until she figured out how to extract the beans. “I’d been tempted many times along the way to guide her hand,” reads one tweet in the thread. “I wanted her to experience the magnificence of the can opener SO MUCH I couldn’t stand the suspense.”
Eventually, the process clicked, and the can relinquished its beans. Roderick concludes with a note about how proud he is of his daughter for not giving up, for carefully problem-solving until she gained a skill she didn’t have before. It’s ostensibly a story not only about raising children, but about the interesting predicament of seeing everyday tools with fresh eyes and realizing just how unintuitive they are. However, after the thread was posted, many Twitter users had an entirely different read on the situation.
Since yesterday, thousands of replies have rolled in: educators who cautioned against Roderick’s well-meaning but flawed teaching methods, child psychologists who noted that the Baked Beans Incident might actually train the daughter not to seek help when she needs it, and, of course (this being Twitter), lots of garden-variety trolls calling Roderick an asshole, or calling the Roderick dissenters assholes. In the face of the backlash, Roderick has remained unwavering in his defense of how he handled the situation, insisting that six hours is not a long time to go without eating, and that any cries of mistreatment are vastly overblown.
Ultimately, The Great Baked Beans Debate of 2021 is a lot like many of the Twitter debates we left behind in 2020: sprawling, emotionally charged, and avoidable. If you need any New Year’s resolution ideas, one might be to spend more time exploring the most wholesome corners of Twitter, where retirees just want to share pictures of their award-winning produce.