I ran into a friend at the grocery store a few days ago. We were talking about our spring break schedules and she shared that their plans to visit colleges had fallen through because her child was overwhelmed by the whole idea. Her daughter is the same age as my daughter and I told her that this piece of information made me feel better; we have gone on exactly zero college visits.
I’d been looking at a lot of pictures on Facebook of families visiting multiple colleges over this break. Many of these teenagers were younger than mine. The familiar “yet another way I’ve failed my kids” feeling was creeping in on me.
Then my friend shared something else she’d seen online that made her question her own family’s abilities, worth and basic existence. As I was walking away, I said something like, “Maybe our families are fine. Maybe we should just get off social media.”
What if all our families really are fine?
It worries me how susceptible I am to other people’s online personas. Looking at other families online for just a few minutes often makes me stumble away from my phone, mumbling to my husband that we suck as a family.
I’m a grown woman, comfortable in my own skin, with a lot of real world experience. What about our teenagers whose sense of self is still being shaped? How deeply are their brains being affected by comparing themselves to not entirely accurate online representations?
Even the “For Real Fridays” or whatever we are calling our honest posts are only the curated things we’re comfortable letting people see. There are levels to our lives being a mess: there’s “we’re such a mess that we forgot to send snacks” and then there’s “we’re such a mess that DFACS has been here twice.” The snacks are the kinds of problems we’re sharing online.
Here’s how I know that we aren’t all sharing the whole truth: because I don’t. In fact, last fall I made a conscious decision to not share this picture:
It looks sweet, right? Caroline is comforting her little sister. The truth is that I’d just made Katie cry. As you can imagine, coordinating schedules, outfits, hair and shoes for my four kids to have their pictures taken is pretty much the same as planning a wedding. I’d even picked clothes that I thought Katie wouldn’t hate, because she can make such a stink about the wrong clothes.
It took us most of the day to pull ourselves together, but we finally met the photographer at a local park. From the start, I noticed that Katie was making weird faces when she was supposed to be smiling. All I said was, “Katie, smile normal!”, but she did not take my suggestion as helpful. She burst into tears; she sat there sobbing on the rocks because her mom was so mean. I was embarrassed and remorseful, but also annoyed. This was not my best moment as a mom, but it certainly wasn’t my worst either.
The photographer and Caro got Katie back on track and we were able to take more pictures. In the end, the pictures I shared on social media were the happy family pictures, not the one of the crying child because of her psycho pageant mom.
I’m pretty convinced that behind many lovely pictures, there are several cringe-worthy moments. We’re all just doing our best.
The mom who made her child cry during family pictures but who is pretty sure her kid overreacted and hopes this post makes you feel better about your own family