NOTE: a bit late, but you know how life goes.
We love seeing them. We hate seeing them. We think all sorts of thoughts when our eyes fall upon those perfect family/kid/selfie pictures swirling around on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on Christmas cards. What is it about all those pictures I post (I mean others post) that makes people’s minds turn from the story and life behind the eyes to the judgment of the intent?
I get it. I really do. It’s so easy to impose meaning and messages behind what we see over social media – pictures of people’s kids and in-laws and food and double dates and guys/girls nights and vacations and pets. I think most of us love the “real” pictures – the ones that help us believe that our “friend” or “follower” is just as normal and human as we are, our life is. We have a responsibility to discern if/what/how/when to post pictures – ones that tell true stories rather than give a false identity or appearance. And then take note of how our brains are interpreting them.
We see SO much.
So here’s my sidetrack thought for today…
First, a confession: I totally blow up people’s phones on IG and I totally hold back on how many pictures I post on FB. In fact, I don’t even have my IG settings set to automatically post my pictures on FB. Why? Because I don’t want people criticizing my love and gratitude and celebration and momentous moments with my kids (or my life). I don’t fear criticism of my pictures, I fear the criticism, by adults, of me, my intent of why I post each picture. The thing is, I hear women all the time saying nasty things about other people’s pictures on IG and FB. It’s so easy to be critical of how much and what kind of pictures are posted. And each time I hear a negative comment I think, “But what if there’s more behind why that person posted that picture?” Because actually, I may be that person.
Here’s what I know…There are lots and lots and lots of parents whose lives are spent managing really, really hard stuff with their kids – tantrums and meltdowns and dis-regulated emotions, shame and blame and self-harm. They’re engaging in “investment parenting techniques” (thanks ETC!) which takes tons of time and lots of grace. They’re trying to move their kids to brush their teeth and hair and eat and get dressed without them falling apart, and in fact, they’re trying themselves to not fall apart! There are lots of moms (or spouses) who stay at home with the laundry and dishes and toys and school work and stove – with the mundane. And, there are lots of moms (and spouses) who go to work everyday who aren’t with their kids, and still come home to all of the above. And, I’m finding there are lots of stay-at-home parents who are struggling to find their identity and calling (outside of being a parent) now that their children are in school (or out of the house). And yes, we know, that there are lots of people who are just plain bored and dissatisfied and jealous and use social media sites in really unhelpful ways.
We all have a lot going on.
When you’re in the season of growing and cultivating “family,” it’s so, so easy to forget the tenderness and vulnerability and fragility and goodness behind your children’s eyes, deep in their souls. We get weary. We get discontent. We get frustrated. We get busy. We crave anything that reminds us that we’re breathing and beautiful and that our life has a purpose beyond taking care of other people’s needs. And so maybe, just maybe, when we post a sweet or silly or amazing or entertaining picture of our kids, it’s because we need to visually be reminded of why we give…our hours and intention and body and money and emotion, and maybe even our mental health – ahhh! And maybe, for one moment, we catch a picture of our child’s true self, the child that we believe in and love with all our heart – the brave and precious and focused and listening and joyful parts – that maybe don’t show up as often as we would hope, or as often as our friend’s or sister-in-law’s child does. And for a split-second, or 15 minutes, we can breathe because the fear and shame and anger and guilt and “I don’t know if I can make it through this day” subsides.
We see him. We see her. We see what’s happening…
…and it’s a defining moment in the day. And it makes us smile. Gratitude swells, perspective returns, the re-set button gets pushed. And we move forward. Again…and again…and again.
Maybe all these pictures people post help remind them of the story they’re in, but also of the bigger story – that the loneliness and longing and really hard days – the ashes – can be and are being transformed into beauty…in their our children, in them us, one snap shot at a time. And I think we would all agree that the more glimpses of what’s true and beautiful and good in this world we can get, we need to take. Amen?
There’s always a story behind what we see with our eyes – at church, at the grocery store, at school, at Christmas parties, on platforms. No family or couple or parent or child – or day – is perfect. Right? So, let’s not even go there with our minds. Let’s remember that every family is experiencing their own challenges. They all wake up with bad breath, bed heads and clothes they would never dare wear in public. Every home is rupturing just as much as it’s finding its own way to repairing and reconciling. Maybe we could try to halt our evaluation and criticism and jealousy, and instead, celebrate what lies behind the eyes and smiles and smirks and poses of those pictures – pure goodness, pure “life” – and then celebrate it…that family, their story.
So keep posting, people! Mark your significant moments and days and people with photos. Let’s cheer each other on. Let’s celebrate the “life” in one another’s homes. We need one another in the outrageously grand moments of life just as much as we need one another in the most boring and hard, soul-sucking moments.
NOTE 1: Please, please, please, don’t ever, ever, ever replace your human relationships with social media relationships. (Someday I would love to write a post about this!)
NOTE 2: There might be some unwritten rule about over-posting, but don’t send it to me – ha!
So here’s a slide show of our “perfect” pictures from 2013. A few years ago we started the tradition of making a slide show to send to our friends and family instead of a Christmas card. Nothing against Christmas cards, but in hopes that they would see and sense the story building in our family, behind our eyes. But know that behind all the fun and joy and activity you see in these pictures, there is also the reality of our bad breath and scraggly hair and piles of toys and dishes and laundry and dirt behind toilets and numbing out with rectangles and multiple mornings when we groan for our children to sleep through the night, and…a longing and desperation for more healing and hope.
But, here we are, another normal breathing family, sitting in the reality that both brokenness and beauty exists, together. And that’s a good thing. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have one without the other.
May this year bring you a refreshed sense of self, a new perspective of others, a deeper love for God, and a growing belief of his deep love for you.
Happy, happy new year!
Love, The Woodwyk Family
Woodwyk 2013 Year in Review Slideshow (plays better on computer than phone and you should hear music).