I love a great photo. Beautiful children in matching clothes. A perfectly poised living room. Delicious, healthy, colorful meals cooked for the family. Being an artist, I appreciate a well taken photo. I also love taking them- when the light hits something just right and the kids are being cooperative.
The problem with social media is that it can often misrepresent real life. We post a picture of one quick moment and it hangs out there forever. It's so easy to look at someone else's moment and misunderstand what real life looks for them. It's easy to assume that this parenting thing is so much easier for someone else when reality is that the one moment of perfection captured in a picture was literally the ONLY moment of perfection the entire day... week... or even month.
So let me give you a little taste of my real life...
Dinner. Never peaceful. Usually at least one child is crying, usually we don't really know why. It's loud and messy, much like a school cafeteria. There is usually fighting. In this moment only two of three kids was crying, so that was a win.
My house. I'm a clean-freak, perhaps even a bit OCD about it (at least if you ask my husband). This does not go well with having children who enjoy dumping all of the toy bins onto the floor more than they actually like playing with the toys.
I wish I could say "Mommy is going to run on the treadmill" and it would be that simple. Alas, it is not. It is instead a side stitch 5 minutes in from answering 437 questions about how long I have left, mid-stride lunges to push little bodies away from the belt, and little eyes staring at me the ENTIRE TIME.
Now, I really do love braiding my girl's hair and the feeling must be mutual because Ms. Wiggly Worm has always been cooperative about it. This combination of patience can make for some really cute styles... but please know that any pictures that have been posted of her super cute hairdos were snapped mere seconds after completion. Girlfriend plays HARD and even the tightest of braids don't stand a chance against this little tornado.
And apparently, this is a genetic condition.
Potty training. You'd think it would be easier the third time around. I bought my baby some pretty awesome Paw Patrol undies, hoping he'd be motivated to wear them. Instead, he's just been piling them onto this play trolley and wheeling them around the house. Oh, and one time he put a pair on his head... so there's that.
If I had the time to snap a picture during all moments of our day, 99 percent of them would look like these. Just like what I suspect is true for most of us that post on social media, my life is just as much a mess as the next; and if you need any further proof just head on over my bio page and take a look at our most recent family photo attempt.
It. Is. Awesome.
Earlier this week, I had to go into downtown Annapolis for an appointment. When I got there, the office was not yet opened so I stood outside of the door and waited in the winter sunshine.
A man spotted me from across the street and called out, crossing the street in the middle of cars. He walked with a slight limp, had very few teeth and was carrying a paper bag molded to the shape of a bottle. In broken speech he asked me how I was doing. I politely answered; not exactly comfortable but trying to remind myself that having not done anything but ask me how I was doing, he deserved a respectful answer to the question.
Maybe it would have been better to be curt or dismissive... because he appeared to suddenly believed that he knew me and inched closer and closer as he attempted to guess my name. Several guesses in, the owner of the office I was waiting for arrived and quickly opened the door for me. I politely said goodbye and closed the door, ignoring the fact that he attempted to stick his hand in the door as it closed.
An hour and a half later, I walked out that door and headed towards my car, which was parked in a garage several blocks away. I looked up to see the same man ahead, with his back to me. Slowing down, I watched as he turned left and crossed the street. I breathed a sigh of relief as I crossed straight and went on my way.
Suddenly, he was behind me again... he must have seen me, crossed back over the street and was now following me, waving his arms and calling, “Hey! You!”
I walked a little faster, refusing to turn around or acknowledge him. He continued to shout and follow me. I came to a parking garage a block before mine. When I glanced in and saw the figure of a person standing in the attendance booth, I dodged into the lot and approached the booth. The man followed me in, still shouting.
The woman in the booth did not see me but she saw him. She busted out of the booth, yelling to him that he needed to stay out. I got the impression that it was not her first encounter with the guy. He seemed to think about it for a minute, then turned and left. I quietly called out to the attendant and explained that he had been following me, that I was sorry but I didn’t know what else to do.
Initially startled to see me standing behind her, she quickly smiled at me and said, “oh honey, it’s no problem. I’ve seen him before and you can never be too safe. Here, let me just walk you to your car to be sure.”
And that, my friends, is exactly what she did. She left her post during her work day, walked me another block to my garage, down four flights of stairs and across the garage to my car.
As we walked, we talked about how we want to give people the benefit of the doubt but unfortunately it doesn't always seem safe to do so. I told her I had little kids and she said “oh honey, you can’t take your chances. Better safe than sorry.” When we got to my car I asked for her name and if I could give her a hug. As we embraced, I thanked her and she smiled at me and left.
Her name is Ceil. The garage she works at is owned by Loughlin Management Group and she has been an employee there for 32 years. I know this because I called them and spoke to the owner of the Annapolis branch.
Calling her boss still doesn’t seem like quite enough. Perhaps it seemed small to her, but it was no where near small to me. She didn’t NEED to help me. She didn’t NEED to drop what she was doing to ensure that this semi-paranoid mama felt safe. Yet she did- without hesitation.
My kids may get great grades, they may become awesome athletes, earn scholarships to the best schools and eventually have jobs that make them lots of money.
I will always be proud of them for any accomplishments they achieve, big or small. But to watch them grow into adults who will willingly and selflessly help a stranger- now that is what will make me feel like we did a decent job with this parenting gig.
Thank you, Ceil from Loughlin Management Group. Thank you.