Saturday, September 10, 2011

Behind the photo

Sometimes I look at my friends' photos on Facebook which show clean, well-mannered kids happily frolicking in the sand or the waves or the woods or wherever and I suddenly think my kids are impossible. Because there is no way they would look that happy or play that well together or frolic for 10 consecutive minutes without screaming or fighting or melting down. (Okay, I'm exaggerating. They can't go 5 minutes without incident.)

Once I saw my sister's photos of a lovely sunrise picnic at the beach in Okinawa. It really doesn't get more idyllic than that. And at the time, I was in daily survival mode, living on Diet Coke, Luna Bars and three hours of sleep at a stretch. I mentioned how jealous I was of the whole scene. And how hopeless I felt at that moment.

She let me in on a little secret. It wasn't quite as idyllic as it looked. Between shots of the kids frolicking in the surf against the rising sun, there were fights and she wasn't feeling well and everyone had to get up way too early. (In my blinding jealousy and discontent, it never occurred to me that they got up before sunrise for this.)

It was then I realized that behind every photo is a story. Photos stand still. But time marches on. And with those marching orders comes conflict and unpredictability, which is why I savor the times when my kids are sleeping or gone or frozen in photos. It's peaceful and predictable.

So I've decided to add a running feature to the blog called Behind the Photo. I post lots of photos on Facebook. And in viewing them, I see the happy moments, the memories we made, the fun we had.
I also fear that some mom somewhere who is having a rough time will feel the same hopeless discouragement I felt over my sister's photos. But my husband and I are the only one who knows the real story behind the photos. For instance, only I know that 20 seconds after this beautiful sandbox shot, Danny dumped sand on his sister's head for no apparent reason. (And now you know, too. You're welcome.)

I don't think this is a negative exercise, though. It's about honesty. Sometimes moms focus so much on the positive that we think other children are perfect. And then we end up hating other moms and ourselves because we're comparing our insides to your outsides. That's just too much hating. We all need to know about each other's insides if we're going to survive parenthood with our sanity intact.

Here's our first entry.
Jim flying a kite in a hurricane

How does this thing work, Danny?
On a Friday night in August as Hurricane Irene's outer bands buffeted our area, we decided to test out a family joke. My husband loves kites. He brings them with us every time we go to the lake and tries to fly them, wind or no wind. Actually, the wind almost immediately stops when he tries to put a kite in the air. I've long told him that he couldn't fly a kite in a hurricane.

I brought the camera, of course, because he would want irrefutable proof that he could indeed fly a kite in a hurricane.

What really happened: Jim got the kite up in the air several times. Jim impatiently tried to get Danny set up with a kite. I followed behind with the two younger ones, continually untangling them from trailing kite strings. Owen freaked out and cried each time he got tangled up. Fiona obliviously walked through the kite strings. Jim barked. I sighed. I tracked down Fiona and Owen's shoes in a large field. Then I got bit on the foot by a chigger (?). It hurt. Bad.

Time spent: about an hour, maybe 10 minutes of which the kite was in the air.

Time to go? Danny pitched the kind of fit that makes us wonder whether such family outings are worth the effort. Which, of course, they are because we accept (eventually or at least before the next outing) the fact that fun is frequently punctuated by unpleasantness with little kids.

P.S. Yeah, it was pretty fun. And, yes, my husband can fly a kite in a hurricane. Indeed, that may be the only time he can fly a kite.


PJD said...

There's a reason they call the pictures "snapshots". They really do represent a snapshot in time ... less than 100th of a second most of the time. :-) Dad

Monica said...

i look forward to the new blog feature. and i love that hubby really CAN fly a kite in a hurricane. i am a miserable kite flyer, so you have given me hope. now i just need to find a hurricane.