A quote doing the rounds on Instagram: “We get 18 delicious summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.”
I have an unrivalled aversion to Insta-worthy quotes. Stolen words about sunsets, stardust, and dreaming make me dry heave. I have an even stronger distaste for the comments that accompany these posts: ‘So true, hun...’ and my personal favourite, ‘This’. Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as ‘real’ on Instagram. I show you what I want to show you; and while I’m honest in what I discuss and present, I like my feed to look a little tidier than the overflowing laundry basket that greets me every morning.
I’m not a business, brand, or blogger and I am not promoting myself for ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, so I don’t feel pressured to edit either myself or my images. Nonetheless, for all my lack of face tuning and filters, I still prefer not to share the dire laundry situation. It’s more than enough having to look at that in real life.
But recently, more and more of these maudlin quotations seem to be appearing. Case in point, the aforementioned dinger.
I get the overall sentiment; your children are only young for a few years. Yes, we are aware. But to witness the guffawing over what is, in essence, a very aggressive statement, makes me want to counteract the, ‘Every word of this I agree with hun’, with an ‘Are you in fact OK, hun?’
So, I took to the people i.e. Stories. The overwhelming consensus was that, ‘Yes…this is horse manure!’ I stated that, given the unstable nature of our economic climate, you can be guaranteed a lot longer than 18 summers with your children. Yes, while I anticipate my children to begin to distance themselves in order to assert their individuality, I do not believe they will emancipate themselves emotionally and financially as the clock strikes midnight on the eve of their eighteenth year! That is perspective!
Also, the abandon with which I have witnessed this quote being tossed about on various feeds — and what follows are umpteen images of days out/holidays/crafting sessions which, nine times out of 10, are sponsored content — invariably goes against the grain of just spending time with our children and nothing else.
This constant premise of having to entertain our children with activities and excursions is exhausting. It is the new ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’.
My memories of summers involved being given a contraband, lukewarm Capri Sun and a flattened ham sandwich, of equal temperature, from a well-recycled piece of tinfoil (I reckon my mother hasn’t purchased a roll of same since the ’80s), as we sat in the woods down the road, which she had made us visit. We eventually graduated to a stay in Sneem, where we sent postcards to our cousins and brought souvenirs of pens with a floating horse pulling a cart and sticks of rock. Outside of this, we spent our summers in the back garden, being bored for 50% of the time.
We certainly did not have schedules packed with mini-breaks, five-star holidays, and umpteen summer camps. Holidays did not warrant lengthy blog posts and photos about ‘making memories’. An enquiry from the neighbours as to ‘How did you get on?’ was met with a ‘Grand altogether… t’was lovely’; and not with an extensive slideshow depicting our every move. We also certainly did not feel any pressure to indulge in same, nor that my parents needed to gain ‘perspective’ because they only had ‘18 delicious summers with us’.
In my mid-thirties now, they are still, I’m sure, waiting for me to bog off.
What the mawkish statement actually implies is that you must enjoy every minute of your child’s summers. Children are hard work. Summers are hard work. Being self-deprecating in your social media posts, as you are lounging in a five-star resort, does nothing to alleviate that fact. It does not mean that you love your children any less by not scheduling their entire eight weeks of freedom. You shouldn’t feel like a bad parent, because you have to work during the summer and have to avail of childcare.
You also should not feel that your treat of an ice-pop to your children at the end of the week, because you are saving for the ensuing back-to-school costs, is not as worthy as those luxurious holidays being touted on social media. It’s not real. That ice pop is. Those 10 minutes in the garden after a long work day, when no one is bickering, is real. That’s perspective. Here’s to a lifetime of that.