Social media, like facebook and Instagram, do not favor the ugly parts of life. Who wants to look at ugly? Most days, and especially if you have kids, you’re living in the ugly—spilled milk and cheerios on your shag rug right before you have to get in the car for a horrible commute that by the time you do daycare and school drop offs and maybe actually even get to work on time, you’re ready to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over your head and close your eyes so tightly they hurt in hopes that when you reopen them your life is somehow magically different. (Please, I hope this isn’t only me?!)
When connect with Facebook, I’m trying to escape these ugly bits—not look more closely at them. So I spend my time crafting pictures and posts that pain me and my family in a pretty light. “Look over here!” I say, “We’re a happy, thriving family!” And, this isn’t to say that we’re not. But, what I often forget, is that to actually be truly happy and thriving, you have to acknowledge and work through ugly. It’s the whole yin and yang deal, of which I’m not at all qualified to wax poetic about. But, you know what I mean. No good without bad. No happy without sad. The thousand pictures of my kid smiling happily? I have a million pictures of her grumpy as all get out that I didn’t post.
Case in point:
The other day, Sydney’s preschool class visited this darling ranch in Half Moon Bay. They had chickens, goats, baby lambs, a farmer-market’s worthy garden where we ate snap peas and broccoli flowers with abandonment. Toward the end of the excursion, our docent brought us into a working barn, where a handful of sheep had given birth to baby sheet two days earlier. The barn was awash with deep “baaaing” (they really sound like they’re saying “baaaaa!”), and the smell of horses and hay made me want to leave my child, find a corner, and curl up with a book and an apple and get lost between the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. (Have you read it? Seen it? I’m obsessed.)
Sydney, on the other hand? Was having none of it. None of what the docent had to say. None of sitting with her classmates. None-of-it-at-all. The situation was ugly—but not because Sydney wouldn’t cooperate. It was ugly because I refused to modify my own expectations of desperately needing a pretty picture of her, and she felt my disappointment and growing frustration. As an extremely sensitive child, my moods greatly affect hers. So the more frustrated I got, the more frustrated she got. We were in a frustration showdown.
As with most showdowns, there’s rarely a winner. Someone is almost always wounded. In our case, I was wounding her because I was teaching her that taking a picture of her was more important than being authentically present with her emotions. I did manage to calm myself, take her off the hay bale, and connect with what was going on with her. (Sensory overload.) We recovered and went on to have a fully fantastic day—I even held a chicken! But, I never got my pretty picture of Sydney to post to Facebook. And that’s ok. The larger lesson I learned is worth all the grumpy pictures in the world. (And, I posted the chicken pic instead. One must, after all, keep up the appearances of a semi-interesting life!)