Photo: Guillermo Murcia
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. My children are not amazing, gifted, exceptionally talented or brilliant in any way shape or form.
But they are to me. And that’s why there are times I pop a photo on Facebook of them doing something that makes my heart swell. Whether it’s performing, doing a new trick or finally winning at something.
I always hesitate before posting. That burst of pride is all too easily instantly gratified on social media. Yet it can be hard to resist.
I understand that for those without kids, these posts can be annoying. Yet I see them as fair trade for cat photos, sunsets, European holidays, Auntie raves, cool homes and even motorbike and triathlon pictures.
I understand that for those with kids, such posts can look like one up womanship. Too much of them and you are contributing to the tendency for parenting to become a competitive sport. There are websites devoted to dealing with puffed up parents who boast that baby Ben is reading Ulysses at 4, or son Sam is kicking goals like Harry Kewell at 2. I concede such brags step over the line. As do photos of children eating offal or sashimi when mine won’t try much more than a white bread sandwich. Yet I wouldn’t un-friend someone for such sins.
Yes, some parents try to psych you out, or live through their children, but most try and keep their thrill in check. As evidenced by the appearance of the ‘humble-brag’. There are posts like ‘‘is it normal my child knows all his colours at age 3?
Is it normal to be annoyed? Yes, but jeez let’s not get too judgmental. Life with kids is a constant one leap forward, two stumbles back. Sometimes those steps in the right direction need to be given a thumbs’ up.
The parental brag is also understandable. If you have started watching ‘The Voice Kids’ you may have seen a bit of television exploitation, but you also saw talent and guts. If one of those kids were mine I’d be screaming their success from the rooftops. So far, no Honey Boo Boos or stage mothers in sight. There’s something about seeing a kid give something a go and succeed that is parenting gold. And, I predict, ratings gold. Unless, we get too jealous to watch.
When I worked at Triple J and a member of our team began a new relationship, we’d give them a few weeks of ‘love leave’; an excuse to be late, forgetful, gushy and hopeless.
I think we need love leave for new parents too.
I’m glad I wasn’t yet on Facebook when my baby daughter rolled over for the first time. No one rolled over like her. She was gifted at it. The way she rocked and then rolled and then turned. God it was unbelievable. I have hours of footage of it. I could show it to you in slow motion.
As my kids have aged I’ve gained perspective, I’ve realised all kids roll over! I’ve realised most are more talented, brainier, more accomplished, nicer, more hard working and more fabulous than mine. But that just makes me celebrate my brats more. Because, if I don’t, who will?
Eventually, parental pride settles down to celebrating character and context. Last weekend my daughter hurt herself at netball and then managed to regroup to compete in a gym comp the next day. I had to brag. It’s when they tackle the things that are hardest for them that makes your heart swell to the degree where it breaks free of your body and onto the nearest digital device.
Besides, I don’t only get proud of my own kids. Recently a friend posted a letter on Facebook that her child wrote about being a better person. I wished there was love button. I actually adore seeing my far away friends’ kids grow up on social media. I adore seeing what they are into, what they enjoy and do well, how like their parents they are or are not. I love seeing their art, their sweet utterances, and their faces forging into the future.
At a recent school camp I was proud of those tearful kids who hadn’t slept over before and had to be consoled. I was proud of the loners, those with a fear of heights who had a go on the ropes and the ones who managed two days of intense activity and lack of sleep way better than I did and without drugs (yes I admit it I may have snuck a wine in when few were watching).
Sometimes the parental brag is about a parent taking credit for a child’s success. Sometimes it’s competitive. But mostly it’s a parental jump for joy because they are so thrilled not just with their baby but also for their baby.
Yesterday tributes flowed for Lorna Wing – a doctor who helped us understand Autism Spectrum Disorder. I love how she described her life with a daughter with ASD. She talked about those “triumphant moments when the penny drops”, of making the world less frightening and then, “little by little, trying to expand that world”.
It’s perfect and true for all children. They all have their own issues. When they face those challenges, when they grow up and away from us we feel pride, hurt, happiness and loss – for every leap forward is another step away.
So yes, post with care. But post away. Cos life with a child is a triumph of hope and a tonne of struggle. Celebrate while you can. I’ll like it. Nearly every time.