My Instagrammed Day

If Jane Austen were writing today, she might opine “it is a truth that should be universally acknowledged, that the pictures one puts on social media bear varying resemblance to what actually happens in one’s life.” That is, if she wasn’t paying the mortgage by writing inspirational memes or book 105 in the ‘Poppet, the Socially Anxious Puppy That Nobody Noticed” series.  It is something I often remind myself about, when perusing the sunlit photos of smiling children and happy parents on social media. It can often appear that everyone else is doing better than you in this weird parenthood game, and if you’re feeling a bit lacking in the Superparent (or even just Superperson) stakes, a glance at Facebook or Instagram can have you sobbing into your tea and damning yourself to parental purgatory.

“A big thumbs up from Jacob for his kale smoothie! #cleaneating #whoneedschocolate #parentwin!”  (Yours has just asked for chips for the ninth day in a row and regards anything green that isn’t cucumber in the same way they would regard radioactive waste. Then again, the poster lost you at ‘who needs chocolate’.)

“Daria wins the Swimarathon AGAIN! Just goes to show what a little perseverance can do. #proudparent #shegetsitfromhermother #swimmingsintheblood’  (Yours refused to go into the water for nine consecutive swimming lessons, the cost of which you’re still trying to block from your memory)

“Glastonbury sunrise – mojitos at 4am after a hard night’s partying. Foo Fighters were amazing! #festivallife” (This year, you will be spending Glastonbury weekend volunteering on the bouncy castle stall at the school fete and wondering what you did wrong in a previous life. You would really prefer a mojito, though you know that you will be asleep at 4am before your child wakes up an hour and a half later.)

I wouldn’t say that I never share positive things on social media, of course. The minibrioche has had some great achievements that I couldn’t resist bragging about – sorry, sharing – but I tend to stop short of photographing the report card (not least because we all know what ‘natural leadership tendencies’ really means). I share photos of sunny days, plants (being able to grow a carrot without killing it or having the squirrels get to it first is up there with passing my driving test), festivals and things that make me smile. I’m quite sure that somewhere, someone is looking forlornly at my vegetable pictures and saying ‘why can’t mine be like that?’

Of course, it’s worth acknowledging the flipsides of all the perfect images and remembering that they may only show a fraction of what actually happened (Jacob spat out the smoothie as soon as he actually tried drinking it, Daria’s photo was taken after bribing her with a tonne of candy floss that led to a meltdown from her sister, and the Glastonbury hangovers will be even worse when the tent floods tomorrow. You know what they say about ‘red sky in the morning’…) As for me, I haven’t yet photographed the shred of courgette plant that was destroyed by the #bastardslugs or the sad-looking beans that I may have poisoned through my homemade, super-organic, everything-friendly slug repellent spray (#lovenature?)

12381188-Family-of-three-at-table-eating-fresh-vegetables-Stock-Photo-healthy

A typical dinner in the brioche household. Naturally.

 

Then again, there are positives here. I liked the #100daysofhappiness challenge, where people were encouraged to share things that made them happy for a hundred days, and to appreciate the small things in life. Cynicism aside, this attitude can only be a good thing. It’s easy to forget the things that make us happy in the maelstrom of guilt and unfinished tasks that make up everyday life; and it’s important to smell the roses occasionally.

More to the point, the Instagrammed life can be embraced wholeheartedly once you accept the idea of the barefaced lie. In the spirit of these things, I’ve taken a test run on my half term experience.

The reality: it poured. Watched awful crap on TV and worried about daughter’s lack of exercise. Forgot I had agreed to look after daughter’s friend* for the afternoon. Visiting child thinks that smacking adults is hilarious. Threatened to take visiting child home after fourth smacking incident until I remembered that both parents were out for the day. Googled ‘indoor soft play’ and spent a small fortune getting both children into one that was open. Every single person in the UK clearly had the same idea. Coffee awful. Children whinged in chorus for madly overpriced ice lollies, gave in after about 3 seconds. Drove home to cries of ‘my mum’s car is much bigger than this’ after both children had fought over who sat in which identical car seat and I’d threatened to make everyone walk the six miles home. Remembered half-term homework, daughter refused to do it, had no energy to insist. Consumed more caffeine than advisable.

Not something I’d put on Facebook. Unless…

(Picture of daughter in pyjamas) ‘Having a chilled out morning with my little girl. Nothing better than snuggles on the sofa on a rainy day!” #feelingblessed

(Picture of daughter and visiting child eating ice lollies) ‘Cheeky monkeys! A quick soft play session and an ice lolly before our fun afternoon of indoor craft.** So happy that minibrioche has such wonderful friends!’#BFFs #makingmemories #feelingblessed

(Picture of daughter standing next to a bicycle. Any bicycle). ‘Poor minibrioche! Rain stopped our half term bike ride treat today – but at least we had fun!!’ #landsendtomorrow #victoriapendleton #proudmummy

(Picture of a test tube, hastily culled from a stock photo site) ‘Minibrioche fitted in a few tests on antibiotic resistance before dinner. We’re getting there!!’ #sciencegenius #proudmummy #mariecurieridesagain

(Picture of a watermelon salad, again, hastily culled from the Guardian recipe page) ‘Mmmmm – yummy dessert! Well – it is half term after all!!’ #watermelon #specialtreat #nomnomnom

Yep, I think I’m getting there.

(*disclaimer – if your child is a friend of my daughter’s, it’s almost certainly not them, and I know mine is probably worse. Incidentally, if you send her home early because you can’t stand another rendition of ‘I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves’, I’ll back you all the way.)

(**disclaimer – we didn’t do any craft. I haven’t quite worked out what ‘craft’ is, but everyone else seems to do it so figured I’d include it here)

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A Letter to the Education Secretary

My child is not a genius. He’s fairly bright at best,

He doesn’t have attainment medals glowing from his chest,

He’s pretty well behaved – at least, I don’t hear that he’s naughty –

He’s not a music prodigy, or known for being sporty.

He’s reading not too badly, can decipher what’s on signs,

His writing’s not too scrawly if he keeps between the lines,

He doesn’t have additional needs as far as I can tell,

And up to yesterday, I thought that he was doing well.

 

But then I got the test results, and thanks to you, I’ve learned

That instead of being proud, I really ought to be concerned.

A five year old that reads and writes seemed pretty good to me –

(Even though he gets confused between the letters B and D)

But it seems he’s way behind, and the levels that he meets

Only indicate a future washing cars or sweeping streets.

His spelling should be perfect, and he should be writing prose

That echoes that of Dickens’ or Edgar Allen Poe’s

He should know abstract maths and science, engineering too,

And write in perfect cursive – which I know that I can’t do.

 

And since he can’t, say experts, then the problem lies with me:

I clearly feed him crap and let him watch too much TV

I believed it when the experts said I ought to give him space,

To let him do the things he likes and learn at his own pace,

I didn’t teach him how to read before he started school,

Because they said I’d do it wrong and he would look a fool,

I don’t know what the others did, but rest assured, I see

That my five year old’s a failure and the fault is down to me.

 

You told us in the news last night that kids need to be smart,

To concentrate on SPaG and STEM and not on books and art,

Our children should learn more and more, enjoy themselves far less,

And the best way to ensure this is by giving them more tests.

Well, Education Secretary, I guess I don’t agree

For knowledge for its own sake’s an important thing for me

I want my son to love to learn, be curious, be keen –

Not just be another product of the UK’s test machine.

 

So when my son looks scared at every piece of work he gets,

When he only reads and writes under the greatest of duress,

When his teachers are burned out and stressed with no time to inspire,

And you tell the schools they’ll close unless results keep getting higher,

When all the joy of learning’s gone and there’s no time for fun –

That’s the kind of education you’ve created for my son.

Parenting manuals part 1

This of course bears no relation whatsoever to the numerous pregnancy manuals out there – honest…

YOU’RE PREGNANT!!

Two lines on a stick – you’re feeling all aglow

A little overwhelmed, since there’s so much you need to know.

You’ve never had a child before, and don’t know what to do –

Well, help’s at hand! This little manual is just for you!

I bet you think you’re fat – You don’t?

Well, that will all change soon

When your belly starts to swell like a gargantuan balloon

Your boobs will hurt, your ankles bloat, you’ll have a double chin

You might as well throw out the clothes you wore when you were thin

You’ll feel so sick and miserable, it won’t be any fun:

But isn’t it the most fantastic thing you’ve ever done?

Have you seen the midwife? Well, you’d better get there quick

There’s much more to being pregnant than just peeing on a stick

You’ll need plenty of advice so that you know what to expect

And of course, you’ll need a birth plan that the hospital can check.

First, let’s look at your diet. Time to shop for healthy things:

For Baby won’t do well on burgers and fried chicken wings,

Or tomatoes, peanuts, oranges, hot chilis or white bread,

Or onions, garlic, pâté, fish or cheese – eat grapes instead!

Fruit juice is a no-no since it gives you diabetes,

And as for tea and coffee – well, they’re just as bad as sweeties!

(and you can’t have those either..)

Try some gentle exercise like walking or a swim:

For Baby won’t be happy if you’re sweating in the gym

And as for weights, or five a side, or going for a run

You must think of the baby – now’s not time for having fun!

Have a nice lunch with your girlfriends or some me-time just for you:

But don’t forget your partner, cause it is his baby too!

He can decorate the nursery in shades of blue or pink –

He’ll feel better if he’s useful while you’re puking in the sink.

Why not take on a project like a scrapbook or a rug

You can do it while in labour – much more natural than drugs!

You might find yourself with cravings – these might be just what you need

If the craving that you have is for a toasted sunflower seed

But as for all the others – no! That chocolate just won’t do

Your body is just kidding when it wants what’s bad for you.

Make sure you have a bag that’s packed and ready in the car

For the mad rush to the hospital while hubby’s in the bar

Now’s the time to think of nappies (cloth) and breastfeeding (essential)

For when the baby’s here – cause any choice will drive you mental

Just follow all of our advice and we can guarantee

That you will be the finest Mum that anyone can be!

Babies Don’t Keep – 5 Years On

There’s a sweet little verse around which reassures new mothers that it’s OK to abandon the housework for a while when you just want to cuddle your baby. I might have taken this too literally in abandoning the housework altogether for five years, but it did  make me think of what sequel might be needed later on in a child’s life. Here goes…

I hope my child looks back on today

And remembers a mum who had time to play,

A lovable sort with a hug and a grin,

Who waved at the school gate to see her go in.

I hope she remembers the positive things,

Not the myriad stresses that every day brings.

The makeup abandoned, the hair streaked with grey

Cause the dye has gone missing or been thrown away

The times when instructions turned into a shout:

“For the umpteenth time, SHOES ON! We have to go out!”

The times I’d forgotten the pound coin for school

Since I’d spent it on parking last night at the pool

The days with school socks grabbed still damp from the line

“They’re dry, they’re just – chilly. Of course you’ll be fine!”

I hope her rushed teas were a small price to pay

For having a mum that joined in with ballet

(For as long as I could stand, anyway)

I hope she sees warmth and not unending mess

I hope she knows why I insist she gets dressed

And I hope at the end of the day she might see

There’s one valuable lesson she might learn from me –

We might want to be perfect, whoever we are,

But it’s fine to be human, too – just like her ma.