The 10 Best Viral Parenting Stories of the Past 10 Years
These parents who captured the internet in the 2010s will still make your heart swell.
Whether you have one child or 10, parenting is no easy task. Between the late nights, the added expenses, and the battles over everything from outfits to screen time, it's enough to make even the most levelheaded folks find themselves at their wits' end. But that doesn't stop parents from going above and beyond for their kids each and every day. And these 10 parents, who captured the attention of the internet over the course of the past decade, especially outdid themselves. From the lighthearted silly moments to the truly heartbreaking ones, we've rounded up the best viral parenting stories of the past 10 years.
2019: A Morehouse student brought his baby to class and his professor held her so that he could take notes.
Being a parent is a tough enough job as it is, and adding a challenging academic course load to the mix only compounds that stress. Top it off with a scramble to find a last-minute babysitter and you might end up in the same position as Morehouse student Wayne Hayer in March 2019, when he nearly missed his algebra class in order to care for his infant daughter. However, when his professor, Nathan Alexander, saw Hayer struggling, instead of sending him home, he stepped up to help.
In a photo that's since gone viral, Alexander strapped Hayer's five-month-old baby daughter, Assata, to his chest and taught the class as usual so that Hayer could take notes. "Our goal is to instill leadership in our students," Alexander told The Washington Post of his decision to step in. "I want to be a model of that, and I think Wayne is a model of that."
2018: The Zezulkas made their foster daughter's dreams come true by adopting her, her brother, and her sister.
Adopting a child can be a wonderful, emotional experience, and the Zezulkas proved that in 2018. Athens, Georgia-based mom Paige Zezulka and her husband, Daniel, surprised their foster daughter, Ivey, with a special gift on her birthday that year. After opening her other presents, Ivey was given a final box to unwrap, this one with a special message: After more than three years in foster care, the Zezulkas were officially adopting her. The news immediately sent the little girl—and her parents—into an understandable flood of tears.
"We love you, sweetheart. We'll always be your parents," Daniel told Ivey in the video the Zezulkas recorded of the moment. "We'll always be your real family." The good news didn't end there, though: The Zezulkas were also able to adopt Ivey's brother and sister.
"Adoption is amazing and we want others to know that adopting older children and sibling groups can be the most beautiful adventure you could ever have!" Paige wrote in the now-viral Facebook post.
2017: Randy Gaines gave his daughter a motivational speech about dealing with anger.
After Randy Gaines's daughter informed him that she was upset about the way he was joking with her, Gaines sat her down and delivered an impassioned speech—secretly captured on video by his wife, Deceena—in which he didn't try to dissuade her from being angry, but helped her figure out the tools to deal with it.
"It's OK to feel this way. You can be mad at me, you can be mad at mommy or your sister, you can be mad at yourself," he said. "Just don't hang on to it for too long, 'cause that's when it gets to be a problem."
"I respect you and I respect your feelings," he continued. "And if it's not OK to joke with you today, I won't do it. Just let me know so that I don't do it, OK? If I don't know better, I can't do better."
2016: Josh Marshall got a tattoo to match his son's cancer surgery scar.
Having a child with a serious illness is gut-wrenching, but it's not just seeing them miss out on activities or struggle with the effects of treatment that makes it so tough. For example, when Josh Marshall's son Gabriel was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare type of brain tumor, he didn't want his son to have to deal with the changes in his appearance alone.
After Gabriel's brain surgery in 2016, Marshall got a tattoo on his head to match his son's surgical scar. He posted a photo of the two together on Facebook, where it went viral. While Gabriel lost his battle in 2018 at age 9, Marshall continues to advocate for families with children fighting cancer.
2015: Jonathan H. Liu's toddler sang Star Wars' "Imperial March" in her crib.
How do you know you've rubbed off on your kids? For some parents, it's realizing their child looks like them. For others, it's noticing that you share similar mannerisms or turns of phrase. For dad Jonathan H. Liu, however, it was hearing his toddler daughter singing the Star Wars theme to herself in her crib that really cemented just how similar the two were. On his blog, Liu explained that his youngest daughter had caught parts of the movies when he had watched them with his older children and she had clearly retained more than he'd expected.
"Yes, the Force is strong with this one," Liu said of the now-viral post. "But she seems to be leaning toward the dark side."
2014: The Newsons helped their five-year-old daughter distribute bags of essentials to the homeless.
For most parents, instilling compassion in their kids is a top priority—and Akeem and Lakeysia Newson clearly did so in spades with their daughter Jayla. After noticing the plight of her local homeless community in 2014, then five-year-old Jayla set out to make bags full of essentials to help those struggling. "I make bags for the less fortunate people," the Virginia Beach tot told Today five years ago.
Filling the totes with everything from soap to food, Jayla created Jayla's Little Helping Hands, a program that provides totes full of necessities to people living on the street and to shelters in her community. "She was like, 'What can money buy? We could give things that make it better,'" explained her proud mom.
2013: Ten-month-old Mary-Lynne weeped after hearing her mom sing.
There are plenty of things kids do to make their parents weep with joy. However, in 2013, mom Amanda Leroux discovered that she was opening up the waterworks for her own baby—just by singing.
In a video that's since been viewed more than 41 million times, Leroux sings Rod Stewart's "My Heart Can't Tell You No" to her 10-month-old daughter, Mary-Lynne, reducing the infant to tears. They weren't mournful sobs, however—as Leroux sang, Mary-Lynne looked delighted as tears streamed down her cheeks. Talk about a sweet moment!
2012: Rick Van Beek carried his daughter with disabilities across a triathlon finish line.
Completing a triathlon is a huge accomplishment. Completing one while carrying your child? Well, that takes things to a whole new level. And yet, that's exactly what Michigan dad Rick Van Beek has done countless times with Maddy, his daughter with severe disabilities.
In 2012, an image posted on the family's Team Maddy Facebook page of Van Beek carrying then-13-year-old Maddy went viral, along with a post in which he explained his motivation for involving Maddy in his race routine.
"Without saying a word, Maddy has saved my life," he wrote. "Maddy is the reason I 'tri'. She is my heart and determination, and I am her means to get there. TOGETHER, we make a great team."
2011: Twins Sam and Ren Randall talked to one another as infants.
They say twins have a remarkable ability to communicate with each other, and in 2011, 10-month-old twin siblings Sam and Ren Randall proved that was undeniably true in a video that's since gone viral.
In the clip, the twins stand in their family's kitchen having an animated conversation with one another, expressing themselves with over-the-top gestures and poses and cracking one another up as their dad looks on, capturing the now viral conversation.
2010: Single dad Jorge Navarez sang "Home" with his daughter, Alexa.
While there are plenty of ways to channel your kid's creativity, then-single dad Jorge Navarez decided that the best way to introduce his daughter, Alexa, to the arts was with good old-fashioned acoustic music. The two captured the hearts of a worldwide audience in 2010 when Jorge posted a video of himself and Alexa singing the Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros' hit "Home." The video has since been viewed more than 31 million times, giving way to the pair performing on America's Got Talent and Ellen, and cementing this adorable duo's place in the unofficial 2010s parenting hall of fame. And get out the tissues before you watch them sing the duet again in 2019, with cuts back to their 2010 version.