“Remember the Toddler Who Threw a Tantrum in Front of the President?”
That’s the question Slate writer Laura Moser asks in the headline of an essay she wrote about a now-viral photo of a 2-year-old doing a face plant at the feet of President Obama in the White House.
“That was my kid,” she explained.
The photo caught the attention of parents around the world after Moser’s brother tweeted it in May.
Many immediately identified with both the situation and the bemused reaction of the commander in chief, himself the father of two teen daughters.
In her essay, Moser said the fit stemmed from a source of strife for many girls: what to wear.
“She’s usually easygoing by toddler standards, except in the mornings when she demands to strip off all her clothes and don nothing but a fitted dinosaur sheet,” Moser wrote, explaining how her daughter often insists on wearing “a sheet-dress.”
That was not an option, however, when Moser and her family headed to the White House for the annual White House Passover Seder.
On that April day, Claudia was talked into wearing a “dress-dress.”
But once at the White House, youngster threw a fit once she learned her mother had failed to bring sheets for her to wear.
“My lack of preparation outraged her. That same instant, the hush associated with the entrance of the chief executive fell over the Red Room, but Claudia didn’t care. Claudia wanted a sheet, and she wanted one now,” Moser said.
“In her fury, she threw herself at the feet of the most famous man in the world. That same instant, Pete Souza, the chief official White House photographer, walked into the room.”
After the infamous photo was snapped, Moser said her father whisked Claudia and her big brother away and “that was that.”
“We thought no more of the tantrum until almost two months later when the White House photo office emailed me a photograph of the incident ‘for personal use only,’” she said.
Moser then posted the picture on her Facebook page, as she did with Seder photos from past years, thinking no one beyond her relatives and friends would be interested.
But then her brother tweeted it, calling it potentially "the best picture ever." Hours later, Claudia’s tantrum was all over the Internet.
“Entirely unrelated celebrities (Judd Apatow, Joyce Carol Oates) had retweeted my brother. By dinnertime, the picture was on the top of the Reddit home page, with 1 million views,” she said.
Suddenly, Claudia's tantrum was splashed all over the media, both domestically and globally, with mentions as far as Macedonia, China and Peru.
Moser said most people expressed amusement and sympathy.
“They understood that my 2-year-old doesn’t care if the president of the United States has just entered the room,” she said.
But she also noted that "if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that crazy people have a great deal of free time on their hands. And I was shocked by what they read into the picture."
She said strangers made assumptions about her political beliefs, her income, ethnic background and "the pride I took in my inability to raise a child."
They called her daughter a spoiled brat and many “endorsed beating the crap out of my child.”
“One commenter recommended thyroid medication to bring my daughter back in balance, but no one said a word about fitted sheets," Moser said.
Moser said the experience served as a reminder that “Internet stars are less humans that tropes” of heroism, villainy and everything in between.
“Actual living humans—in this case, my baby girl—are reduced to Grumpy Cat memes as every day the Internet offers up new canvasses where other people can project their fears and loathings,” she said. “For almost an entire week, my daughter provided this grist.”
But Moser did note that the timing of the experience coincided with a major family milestone: Claudia's decision to stop using diapers.
"It was as if, as an international Internet celebrity, she suddenly felt compelled to up her game," she said. "And that was news I could use."