My husband and I were debriefing after a particularly stressful week. We were lying on the bed talking when my 16-year old walked into the room and found me patting my husband’s head and saying “poor bunny”. It’s not as creepy as it sounds; rather it’s a long held habit that’s more of a joke than actual solace. It’s one of our “things” – like the way he sends me a chicken emoticon to tell me when his flight has landed or when he asks me what the weather is and I reply “it’s a series of highs and lows measured in isobars”.
My son walked in and looked at us in that loving but condescending way teenagers have mastered over the years. “Relationship goals” he said as a smile spread across his face. My husband (who is far less into teenage lingo than me) looked at him for clarification.
“I want to have a relationship like you guys when I am older,” he explained.
For a full minute everything was good in my world. Internally I gloated over what awesome relationship modelling we had provided for our little sponge. But reality set in quickly and I thought about all the fights we had had in front of him and all the things I
definitely may have muttered under my breath when my husband was annoying me.
We aren’t perfect; in fact mostly we are quite imperfect and even after 16 years of parenting we average more misses than hits.
But what he said about relationship goals made me feel really happy. It’s hard to deny that rush you get when you get the opportunity to see that you’ve done something good, especially something positive that actually makes an impression on a teenager.
And because it’s 2017 I started to formulate the Facebook update in my mind. I wanted to share the real happiness and pride I felt in my son (and my awesome parenting).
But as I went to type it up – the internal conversation ramped up. I shouldn’t gloat about my child’s awesomeness; I shouldn’t be part of the band of people that only show their highlight reel. No one wants to hear about how remarkable my child is. It’s boastful and it will make other parents whose teenagers are giving them a bad time feel terrible.
Is that what social media has become? Of course we shouldn’t just be gloating over on Facebook but maybe, especially given the current climate of fear, outrage and gloom, we shouldn’t be afraid to sprinkle in some happy moments, some joy that our children bring?
Some days I scroll through Facebook and I see parents lamenting the boredom of child-rearing and I know it’s important they have a place to share and to be heard.
But the posts that make me feel most hopeful, the ones that really add light to my feed are the ones that remind me, even if it’s sometimes very hard, it’s perfectly natural and very much acceptable to think your child is fan-bloody-tastic some of the time. And to say it out loud.
I don’t feel bad when I see another mum rejoice in her child, I feel happy for her. I know one good moment doesn’t negate all the hard ones and I’m not so naïve as to think their lives are all billboard moments. But celebrating your child, revelling just for a little bit in the joy they bring shouldn’t be something we scorn.
I worry that the pendulum has swung too far. We are so aware how hard and isolating parenting can be, we’ve stopped sharing the parts that bring us joy. We encourage each other to share and to offload and to be candid about the difficulties, we urge our friends to be honest about the boredom and the loss of self, we speak out about the myth of fairytale motherhood and as we incite this honesty we sometimes quash the voices amongst us who are lucky enough to be finding some positives. Even just at one moment in time.
And it’s not just about curating our Facebook feeds for other people’s eyes, it’s as important to remind yourself of the good in your life; think gratitude journal rather than outrage machine. I know that next year when I click on Facebook and the memory comes up I’d love to be reminded that there was a day when my son was 16 that I got everything right.
So when you read someone’s Pollyanna update rather than feel anger at their smugness, maybe see it as a reminder that there are breaks in the rain. Parenting isn’t always a struggle, sometimes it’s awesome and it deserves to be celebrated.
For parenting stories that don't look like a Facebook highlight reel, listen to This Glorious Mess.
Lana Hirschowitz is kind of a worrier who is trying very hard to transform into a kindness warrior. It remains a work in progress. In between worrying (and reminding people to be kind) she espouses her opinion on most things on Facebook here.