At this point, we all know that looking at social media when we’re not feeling 100% emotionally can be toxic. Most people I know have even suspended accounts, or gone on hiatus to detox from it. We’re all aware, yet we keep coming back. (Ironically, that’s how most people linked to this article. Sidebar: Don’t you love it when you read an article on the benefits of putting your phone down…. ON YOUR PHONE! I digress…)
And for many of us, summer is the worst.
‘Here are my kids at the zoo in matching shirts!’
‘Here’s a family photo by the lake with small toddlers grinning in lifejackets while sitting calmly on laps, possibly holding a small American flag.’
‘Happy Father’s Day to my AMAZING husband! Here he is taking all three small children for a four-wheeler ride- aren’t they sitting so nicely?’
I really do love these pictures, really I do. But friends, let’s make sure to post/share/talk about the after picture. Even better let’s put both side by side.
I’m not saying it needs to be every time. And I’m certainly not suggesting we focus on the negative. I’d just like to infuse more truth into our social media experience. Let’s show some reality to help hold each other up.
I’m guessing for many teachers; summer is such a joyful time. Depending on the ages of your kids, maybe it truly is. God bless you. I’m going to come completely clean and say the last few months of my life have been riddled with stress, anxiety, tears, and exhaustion. And I know exactly why. I have an extremely strong-willed, intelligent, and freakishly strong almost-three-year-old, who went from a daily structure at daycare to loosey-goosey playtime at home. Not to say I’m not a structured parent, but I don’t care how many activities and snack times you set in stone – I just cannot provide the kind of structure at home that they can at school. Being a teacher, it was hard to admit this.
The past few months have been tougher than most of my hardest days of teaching fourth grade. I have reattached my toddler’s bedroom door to the frame from him pulling it off not twice, but THREE times this summer. I’ve carried him over my shoulders screaming and kicking more times than I can count. He’s thrown every book he owns around his room. Often his lamp and family photos on his table get thrown around too.
I avoid going places that I know he’ll meltdown, but I’ve left a full cart at Cub and a small puddle on the library entryway rug just to get him the heck out of there. And thank you for those sympathetic ‘I’ve been there’ smiles from my fellow people. But for every 25th smiling face, you know what sticks with you? The rare 26th face that shakes their head, and makes you feel like you can’t handle your kid. They force an awkward smile and say, “Sorry, I got lucky, my kids never really did that.” Either they have amnesia or they should play the lottery…but those are the ones that cut deep and fuel the anxiety.
I’m so sorry to those who had to endure me for the 7 years when I only had one calm child. Oh, how many cute art projects we made and cakes we baked. We went on field trips and snuggled, and when she was bad, well, she pouted on that naughty step like a boss. Dear friends, forgive me if I ever made you feel like less of a parent by only posting and talking about the amazing things we did. Man, she was easy. I read the toddler-parenting book and she did exactly what the book said. There is nothing textbook about my son. He is stronger, louder, and angrier than my oldest was at even her worst tantrum. I love him dearly, but he challenges my parenting abilities daily.
Last Sunday at church with just my oldest, I fought tears while I knelt and prayed for strength for the day and the week ahead. I prayed for peace to combat the white-hot anxiety that creeps in when the raging tantrums begin even before the sun is up. I asked God to show up, to send me hope. As we were leaving, I started talking to another parent. She told me stories of her son at three years old that rivaled some of the darker moments of my last few weeks. My head and heart felt lighter. As I left the church I became more convinced of the need to SHARE these stories of being in the trenches.
So don’t be afraid to post both pictures, mamas, tell both stories. Be vulnerable. Talk about sweet butterfly kisses AND hiding in the bathroom crying. We need to talk about the good moments and the very imperfect ones. We need to hold each other up.
And mamas, when I see you drag that tiny spitfire from the store howling, I am there with you. Feel free to come and get a hug or a fist bump. Or maybe we can just look at each other and wink and say, “You got this, Mama.”
Susan (Susie) Wangen is a Minnesota native and a fourth-grade teacher in the southwest suburbs. Her students tease her that every book is her “favorite” book, and she loves teaching kids how to write. She lives with her husband, Scott, and her two darlings; Charly (2009)-through the miracle of infertility treatments and Auggie (2015)- through the miracle of adoption. During the summer you might find her reading the latest children’s books or freelance writing and blogging. She also loves to cook, run, and attempt to capture and bottle contentment. You can follow her on her blog at www.throughthetreetops.wordpress.com