A few weeks ago, Ian and I made an impromptu decision to scrap our normal morning weekend routine and take the kids to the local IHOP. We figured it was early enough to be “safe” - meaning, if our kids were disasters, it wouldn’t be crowded enough yet for us to be harshly judged and hated by hungry pancake-eaters. Plus, we almost never take our kids out to eat in a restaurant and figured it’d be a fun change of pace. (insert judgement from other parents here)
And you know what? It was fine! They were typical 2- and 3-year-old’s at an IHOP that didn’t have Wi-Fi. I mean, of course it wouldn’t be working. Because it occurred to me to bring iPads so that Ian and I would be able to enjoy our breakfasts while they watched a show and ate their giant chocolate pancakes. But alas, we had to pretend like it was 1986 and talk to each other. Go figure.
Sure, it had its moments of being a little stressful at times, mainly because it was such a novelty for the kids (still judging?) and they were super excited and wanted to go back and forth from one booth seat to the other via going under the table. Which is gross, I know, but I really wanted to drink my coffee, and so I let them (judgement increasing?) And, come to think of it, I never did get around to actually eating my meal, but the kids seemed to have a good enough time and so I chalked it up to a successful adventure.
But what I didn’t do was post on social media about it. Which might seem like a non-thing. And it is, I suppose. Though if you look at your social media feeds, you’d be hard-pressed not to find the obligatory “kids at the movie” shot or “kids at a restaurant” shot. We’ve created an online presence for ourselves that highlight our best and most mundane, normal, perfect moments. And frankly, it stresses me out, which is why I police myself pretty strictly with both Facebook and Instagram. Because look, if I'm being honest, if I'd posted any of the pictures, it would've been for the soul purpose of showing that we're fun, breezy parents who have excellent kids who eat out in public withough incident. And it'd be a total lie.
But, what I did do was post some pics to our shared family photo album and included the caption, “Not pictured: my uneaten breakfast because Rauri had to go to the bathroom twice and the small milk spill under the table because we are new to long straws.”
And then it hit me: If I’d seen these same pictures on Instagram, caption-free, I would’ve felt…less than. Which maybe sounds ridiculous and it feels super vulnerable to write out loud because I should be far beyond comparing myself to people on Instagram, jeez. And I am. Except for sometimes, when I’m feeling especially fail-y as a parent in that moment, and so then, I’m not beyond it.
Hear me out: If I’m being totally honest, seeing pictures of a family with little kids out eating pancakes with whipped cream and big smiles would’ve immediately taken my brain to how we almost never take our kids out to eat and what failures we are at giving them a well-rounded existence. Crazy,right? Absolutely. Accurate to how my brain works? One hundred percent.
But let’s get real – Ian and I like to enjoy our lives and taking them to restaurants is a pain in the ass. We have enough issues with dinner on any given night, we don’t need to broadcast it publicly at the local Chili’s that we’re adorable, yet a mess. Also, in the handful of times we have taken them out, it looks more chaotic than what seems to be showing up anywhere and I never see the pic where most of the food is on the floor and you just spent $40 on drinking half a cup of cold coffee and getting Ebola from whatever germs are hanging out on the bathroom door handle that your kid just licked.
Yes, I’m sure that if we took our kids out to eat more, they’d get more normalized to it and would be fine. And also? They are fine! It’s me who is so anxious about making a mess and being loud and not getting to drink my coffee (noticing a theme here?) that I think I just scrap the idea any time it comes to me and keep things simple. Which I know isn’t the evolved step to take, but it’s the truth.
So now my question is....is there anyone else who goes through the same type of thing? If so, you’re welcome for not posting the cute pic of my kid that captured exactly 5% of the actual moment. And to the rest of you, I guess what I’m saying is something that’s become a theme around here for a few months now:
Show me what’s not in the picture.
I know your kids are cute, but you have to let me see that they’re disasters, too. I feel like it’s our parenting duty to stay real with one another. And also, if you have tips for how you let that shit go and just enjoy your greasy bacon out in public? Share with me, for God’s sake! You’re my IHOP guru!
At the end of the day, there was some spilled milk on the floor and I never did get around to my lumberjack breakfast, but they attempted to use inside voices, were friendly and polite with the waiter, and we didn’t burn the place down by accident or clog the toilet with giant toddler poop, though we tried our best. So, I suppose I should take that as a success and give it another go-round….and when I do, I promise to try and capture the moment for you when my toddler licks a little Ebola. You’re welcome.