This past week, my husband decided he wanted to take the kids camping. Now, my husband doesn’t camp. He was completely made for the indoors. We went once while dating, and we ended up camping on a floodplain….during a thunderstorm….and we bailed when our mattresses were floating in about 6 inches of water. But, I grew up camping on every summer vacation, so I excitedly agreed to this crazy whim. So, off he went to a sporting store and came out with a giant 20 person tent.
Next, began the daunting task of setting it up. Heated words were exchanged as I am a rule follower who follows the instruction manual step-by-step. My husband is the kind who will only look at the instruction manual if there’s a bunch of extra parts left over. So after inserting half of the poles in the wrong section, he finally pulled them all out and consulted the manual. After at least an hour of setting it up, we dug the inflatable mattresses out of storage and began inflating them. Now, understand, we live in Texas. Where even nighttime camping doesn’t offer relief from the heat, so there was an extra trip to the store to get portable fans for the tent.
At this point, it was an hour past the kids’ bedtimes. And they were starting to get whiny-tired. They were complaining about everything from which mattress to sleep on, to which blanket they wanted. Bickering back and forth. Also, at this point, we decided to check the weather. We saw light storms in the morning, and decided it was probably likely to go around us. My youngest, who still sleeps in a crib, and I slept in the house. At about 5:30am, I was suddenly awoken by loud claps of thunder. I checked my phone, right as Kameron texted about whether or not to bring the kids in. We decided that as long as they were sleeping, we’d keep them in the tent. They lasted another twenty minutes before one side of the tent fell in, starting to soak the kids. We carried the kids inside, crying from fright, and put them in their beds.
It continued to rain for the next three days. On day three, we remembered the tent was still set up, and grabbed some of the more important items out of it. Then on day five, a tornado warning and straight-line winds completely bowled over the tent. A week later, it’s still in a heap in my front yard.
Now, I share this story because my husband enthusiastically posted a picture of the kids and him the night he decided to camp. It was a smiling picture of all three of them outside the beautiful freshly-setup tent. It was met with lots of comments about how much of a fun dad he is and the memories the kids were going to be making.
I say this all, because what got shared was only a tiny picture of reality. We post our best selves on social media. The picture with everyone smiling. The picture of the adventures to come. But we don’t always share the crap. It is so easy to look at that smiling picture of Kameron and think “I’m not doing that with my kids, I must be a horrible mother” or “Why doesn’t my husband do fun things like that with our kids?” We forget that we only see the highlight reels of other people on social media.
It’s so easy as special needs parents to fall into the jealousy trap. “I wish my kid was getting his feeding tube out like X.” “Look at M, she’s walking! When will my kid ever walk?” We see the achievements on social media, but don’t always see the hours and hours of therapy, doctors visits, and frustrations it took to get there.
It takes incredible strength to show the vulnerable side of your life. To share the not-so-great moments. The frustrations, the endless doctor appointments or hospital visits. To share the lows and ask for prayers, again and again and again. Because the chronic reality of our kids is that a lot of them are going to have lifetime struggles and we can’t help but feel like broken records.
So what can we do this? Because social media isn’t going away any time soon.
- Remember that social media is a highlight reel. Don’t compare your lowest moments to somebody’s best. Remember, you are only seeing one little tiny bit of their iceberg while seeing your entire giant beautiful mess.
- Spend time off of social media. If you’re finding that your emotional health is suffering when using social media instead of being encouraged, maybe it’s time to spend time elsewhere. Spend that time you would spend scrolling reading an e-book, or on a creative hobby.
- Remember that it’s okay to hide people from your feed. If seeing a certain person’s posts is leading to negative thoughts, hit the snooze button on their posts. Remember, you can curate what you’re feeding into your brain. You control your social media, don’t let it control you.
- Spend time with people in person. I know this can be hard, especially with kiddos with fragile needs. But start with inviting one person to your home for an hour. Living life alongside friends for a continued length of time is one of the best ways to remind yourself of real struggles and victories in others’ lives and allows for mutual support and encouragement in those low times.