Good Parenting Happens in the In-Between
From the looks of it, we're all fantastic parents. Our Instagrams from Disney World and the Facebook albums of Easters and Christmases show smiles, laughter, hugs, and happiness. It's as if nothing goes wrong in our lives or for our families. It's easy for people to think I'm a great dad because sometimes my blog posts show that I'm willing to get dirty with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter or that I'm at her beck and call when we go out to eat. And while I'm learning myriad life lessons from this pint-sized princess, certainly we all know that for every muffin she eats happily, there's a little girl (and her dad) who gets frustrated when it's time to change a diaper, take a bath, or go to the doctor.
I don't think the good parenting we're all doing happens when we post the highlights of our lives to Facebook. It happens in between those moments.
Somewhere between your Christmas morning and the craft your child made for Valentine's Day, you were a great parent. You taught a life lesson, moved heaven and earth in order to make your kid happy, or put off what you wanted to do so they could do what they needed to do. There is no album on Facebook for that.
At some point between the school portraits and your summer beach trip, you snuggled next to your son or daughter (or both) and watched a silly TV show. As their eyes followed the dancing monkey or uncoordinated clown, you looked over and caught the smile that was curling upwards from the corners of their mouth. You didn't take a video of it, but it's etched in your mind forever.
The times when you didn't let them have dessert because they didn't touch their vegetables? Or when they couldn't watch TV because they didn't clean their room like you asked? When they left toys lying about so you told them they'd have to clean up before they could play with a friend? When they needed to apologize to their brother before they got certain privileges back? None of those times go on Facebook. Few of those instances involved smiling. But good parenting probably happened.
Do not judge your parenting skills - or the quality of your life, for that matter - based upon what you or anyone else is putting online. Those are the highlights. That's the SportsCenter of living, not the full game with its ebb and flow, its rhythm and mistakes, its moments of terror, uncertainty, and desperation.
Facebook is an idealized representation of ourselves, how we parent, how we live, how we love. It is anything but authentic.
Parenting - and life - happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.