Taking the Filter Off

I was flipping through Instagram trying to numb my brain for a quick sec, like we all do. I’d had a long day of running around, and I was tired of thinking and didn’t want to tackle what the next day had in store quite yet. Sometimes seeing pretty colours and pretty people helps break up the stresses we have and makes us momentarily feel better. But sometimes it doesn’t make us feel better at all.
I follow a fair amount of moms, mostly famous ones, either from being in movies and tv shows, or self-made famous from parenting blogs that have taken off. And I was a little disgruntled at not seeing enough reality when it came to parenting small children. The ugly parts. The span of everyday hours where it’s really hard, where you’re getting things thrown at your head and you’re cleaning up tiny bits of oatmeal that are seemingly everywhere and you feel like you might lose it this time and take off to Timbuktu if only they had a Sephora there. Most of these moms on Instagram have really funny-cute stories about their “threenagers” and mischievous four year olds doing “exasperating” things like demanding that their sandwiches be cut into dinosaur shapes, or bursting into tears because the moon went away for the day. Really? Those are your tough days? Sounds pretty sweet to me. Mine bit my literal butt cheek through my sweats yesterday and let me tell you, it was anything but cute.
This made me take a good look at my own Instagram feed though, and I realized that I was guilty of depicting the mostly nice stuff, too. We all want to look nice and look like we’ve got it together. Who wants to see the ugly stuff, right? The reality, the stickiness and ickiness of parenting that doesn’t look good no matter how much you FaceTune it. Well, I want to see the ugly stuff. And not having it on my own feed bothered me. I don’t exactly want to splay out pictures of my kid having an epic temper tantrum for all the world to see because I’m pretty sure he won’t appreciate that when he’s older. And no one needs to see me first thing in the morning when I’ve been up several times in the night and look the Crypt Keeper. But I also don’t want to sugar coat the process of parenting and have you believe I’m living the sweet life over here in the pumpkin patch while you’re at home crying your eyes out. I know how it feels to see a picture perfect photo of a family in white sweaters all smiley and cuddled up on a park bench when your kid has decided to turn into the exorcist for the day, and it can really make your heart sink.
Parenting is a strangely isolating experience. Even if you have lots of parent friends to commiserate with, we all have our own unique set of problems with raising our children once we’re behind closed doors. And worse, these not-so-little everyday issues start to dredge up the shit we all have from our own childhoods, giving you no choice but to shine a light on your triggers and somehow learn not to repeat the same mistakes. It’s hard. It’s emotional. It’s energy-depleting and wildly frustrating. The highs are wonderful, and we’re just so in love with our kids that we forget that they’ve got it in them to totally flip the switch and explode, so when they do, our nervous systems can sometimes go into overdrive.
I was on a walk the other day with my little guy in the forest. We’re lucky enough to live close to some beautiful trails, and the sun was shining through the big old pines and I was watching him navigate the trail, both of us happy as clams. But he was tired. So was I. He started to get a little testy, and then he smacked me in the back, full-force, right there on the trail. I spun around in shock, mostly at how this perfect moment could be ruined so quickly, all of my natural instincts wanting to blame this tiny person for wrecking the perfect walk I had envisioned for the two of us. I told him through gritted teeth not to hit for what felt like the hundredth time, and kept walking up the trail, essentially ignoring him. This is when he really lost it, screaming his head off, startling people nearby, yanking on my arms and my jacket and wailing for me to pick all 40 pounds of him up and carry him for the 15 minute walk back to the car. (The ignoring technique apparently does not work in our household, so crossing that one off the list for good). It was awful. But it was normal. Once we got home, of course his tantrum had dissipated and he was back to his jolly little self, like life had just gone on. Because it had. I was the one that was frayed and fragile and rummaging in the drawer for a corkscrew.
Maybe you’ve got yourself an angel child and you don’t deal with things like this. Seriously, I know those kids really do exist, because I’ve met them (hi Jane, my sweet niece, I love you). But maybe you’re just like me and you’re dealing with a spirited little spitfire of a person who’s trying to learn to navigate their own big feelings, and you find yourself in scenarios like this from time to time. Well, I’m doing my civic duty here in telling you that you’re not alone. No matter what Instagram tells you, everyone’s in the shit (except for the parents of the angel children who, lets face it, will probably be teenagers from hell to make up for it. Good luck, guys!), we’ve all got our hands full, we’re all gritting our teeth in the parking lot, and we all gotta just have a good cry once in a while. Some days are just going to be tough, no matter what kind of intentions we start off with and no matter how many super green smoothies we make. Life is tricky on its own, let alone with teeny tyrants trying to run the show. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it. And that’s WAY easier said than done. I’m a perfectionist, so when things don’t go according to plan, I have a tendency to unravel. But I know that about myself. I’m learning to pause in those moments where my alarm bells start to ring and I try to take a deep breath. “This isn’t an emergency” is one of my favourite new mantras. My sister-in-law’s is, “I’m the parent. She’s the child.” I’m also a big fan of, “He’s just a tiny little caveman psychopath.” Whatever works to snap you back to the reality that This Too Shall Pass, and all it is is a moment. We try our best. We keep going. And eventually they’ll grow up and away one day. And then we’ll only remember the good stuff anyway, or at least we’ll have learned to laugh hard about the bad stuff.
So if you’re feeling our old pal Self Doubt creeping in, tell him to take a hike because you’re not alone and you don’t suck at this. Practice some self-love. Order in. Make the other parts of the day that you CAN control as easy as possible. And maybe log off Instagram for a bit. Those pretty pictures aren’t going anywhere.


35 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Posey says:

    rofl my 3 year old son found a 18oz FULL bottle of gold bond powder in the bathroom and dusted my entire bedroom and himself. He survived it.

    I am 1000% with you on the morning Crypt Keeper thing though. Before my coffee my children wont look me in the eyes.

  2. Carey says:

    Oh, fellow momma, what a great reminder that we’re all in these trenches and don’t need to feel alone. ❤️
    Enjoy your weekend wine down… 😊 I know I will.

  3. Phillip Parker says:

    My hats off to you for keeping your patience… I know you just crossed the ignoring technique off the list… But have you tried the spray bottle technique? I mean, if it works for cats 🐈 😜

  4. Casey says:

    Thanks for this. Always important to hear! I’m in the trenches with two myself (youngest is two days younger than your spirited little spitfire). Tea always helps! And alcohol…

  5. Jeffrey Fetrow says:

    What a great post. Real, honest and relatable. And yes, parenting can be a terribly isolating experience. But it’s nice to hear, as Sting put it, “Seems I’m not alone in being alone”.
    Thank you for being a source of cheerfulness.

  6. Michael McLennan says:

    This quote came to mind :-

    “Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.”

    ― Quentin Crisp

  7. Pip says:

    “He’s just a tiny little caveman psychopath.” I so feel that; we’re babysitting a just-turned-two one just like it. Calm, sweet, funny…and then holy shit, run for cover.

  8. Amy J says:

    Raising kids is hard work. Very hard. Everyone who puts the effort in to do it right (as you very clearly are) deserves all the kudos.

    Plus, biters almost always grow out of that phase. Your yoga pants will be safe one day.

  9. lyndell says:

    thank you for the support. my son is severely autistic and i would swear James McAvoy’s film ”Split” was filmed with hidden cameras in my apartment. i am a single parent and poor. i too fall down Instagram and Youtube rabbit holes and feel a total failure. we live in Hell. the difference is, my son is now 45 years old and still having tantrums like when he was 3. he has had several suicide attempts, is clinically depressed and is not at all shy about blaming me at the top of his voice for everything that has ever not been perfect in his life, so…everything ever… i know he will never be able to grow up and go away. and when i die first as logic says i must, he will be free to accomplish the suicide i have been trying to prevent for all these years. i will posthumously become the abject failure os a Mum and human being that i am certain that i am. maybe next life will be….who am i kidding. at least my son doesn’t rea comments on anything, of course this will be the one exception that proves the rule and i will pay for this as well. but thank you anyway for the outlet.

    1. MelissaS says:

      You are not a failure and won’t be a failure. You’re having a tough go but you obviously make an effort and care. You’re doing everything you should. It’s not easy. There’s no instruction book. Hang in there. Treasure the moments you can and give yourself a pass for the moments that truly are not your fault (which sounds like a lot). I’ll be thinking about you and sending good thoughts bc that’s all I can do but don’t call yourself a failure. Loving our kids is all we can do at the end of the day. That’s the important part and as long as you succeed in that, you succeed as a parent. Even if you have moments where you feel like the love isn’t there. It is. Otherwise you wouldn’t stop trying. *hugs*

  10. Patricia says:

    Great post!
    Those first parenting months were the hardest for feeling like a failure (ie nursing) and no one around who struggled in the “exact same” manner to have me hear and believe that “it gets better”.
    Advice I once got was to plan for your plan to go wrong and then maybe you will be ready for it.
    Your kid clearly has tons of happiness and fun. Lucky kid!

  11. Leesa Adamson says:

    Dicipline is very important- especially when they’re young. I never beat my children with a belt when they misbehaved (as was done to my siblings and me), but there were rules that had to be obeyed. If you do not establish discipline when they’re young, you can forget doing so when they are teenagers. My daughter is now 36 and was a psychology major in college. She actually approves of the way she was raised. (Wonder of wonders!) Just don’t forget to always be honest, value their opinions/feelings, talk to them every day, and show interest in their daily lives. (Easy peasy, right?)

  12. Don Getschman says:

    So I suppose “just turn the other cheek” would be a wildly inappropriate comment at this moment? Ha! … Made you smile! Stay tough and hang in there.

    1. Perry says:

      That same thought crossed my mind, really…

      1. Anonymous says:

        It’s nice to know I don’t have the only warped mind out there. 😉

  13. Alana says:

    Thursday night I was at a show with my kid. They had brought a little baggie of candy and there was nibbling and there was rustling.

    I had to whisper to them to be quiet.

    They gave me three whole jelly beans. Whoo-hoo.

    When they were done, they at least folded up their candy wrapper. Rather than just tossing it on the floor like a total philistine, they put it in my purse to be thrown out later.

    The kid is 20.
    We were at the opera.

  14. Kevin says:

    Jewel, I cannot say how much I appreciate you being real and down to earth. You are a shining star but also an actual human being and a wife and mother. (Its easy for many people/fans to overlook that) In life it sometimes feel like we have no way out of or control over a situation that is overwhelming, but what we do have control of (at least in theory) is how we choose to react to them. Keep fighting the good fight and again, thank you for your candor.

  15. Mark Novak says:

    My premenstrual 12yo is on the floor vacillating btwn bawling and laughing like a maniac. I feel like I’m the most sane person in this crazy house. Help me.

    1. Chrissie says:

      I feel you dude. Mine is 13. Who knows who I’m going to meet when she decides to leave her room. Lol.

  16. Savanna says:

    My darling 3 year old decided to have a melt down Thursday afternoon when I picked her up from daycare. All over wanting to get a lolly from the shop.

    It was not pretty. There was scratches down my arms and legs, chewed up biscuits spat at me, and later found stuck to my shirt and pants, and much shouting.

    I did the only thing possible and plonked her in the car and waited by the open door till she calmed down and was ready for a cuddle. Even had to close the door more to let a grandparent strap their child in the car next to us.

    Parenting is definitely not all glamorous!

  17. Jeanie says:

    I’m not a parent myself, but I have lived for years in the same house as tiny tyrants and now the dreaded pre-teen and teenagers. I used to put the kettle on the moment my niece started throwing a temper tantrum upstairs as I knew her mom would be downstairs momentarily and need tea and a place to hide.
    I came home today to an open front door (I live in a basement suite) because the teen upstairs had locked the preteen in the basement and my door was the only other way out. Not an unlocked door… one open 4 inches, likely for a few hours, in October.

  18. Ilio says:

    My cousin’s oldest exhibited similar behavior in his terrible pre-K days. I’d seen him throw terrible tantrums. His mom would remove him from family events out to their van where he’d continue his behavior till he tired out. Then one day it all stopped. Today he’s a well adjusted college freshman and excellent big brother to his siblings! Give it time.

    1. John says:

      Thanks Jewel for the honest side of your situation. Both my wife and myself have experience exactly the same thing with our daughter. You walk through the shopping mall and witness other children doing the cerebral meltdown outside of the Ice Cream shop, making you take a very wide path around their kicking and screaming bodies, hoping your little one doesn’t ask that feared question “Why is that boy lying on the ground with his legs kicking……….”, just in case your answer triggers the same response in your kid.

      She is now 10 (going onto 16), goes to her room after school to watch YouTube video’s on her iPad of the lower part of the face of a Japanese lady eating different food (what the ……..) and totally ignoring us. Even if we say “Let’s go down to the Ice Cream ship and grab something to eat, she will decline, as it doesn’t interest her to go. We still have the teenage years to deal with yet, and she has already started them ( and all of the bodily functions that girls have to deal with at later ages)!! So it hasn’t got any better yet!

  19. Michael says:

    My mantra was, “This why some species eat their young.”

  20. Sarah Barnes says:

    Oh I wish I could give you a hug! I also had a spitfire of a son and those years were rough for me too. But everything you wrote it so true; thank you for sharing! And it does get better – my spitfire is a nerdy 13 year old and the worst problem we have is when he’s only done 20 of his 30 min clarinet practice and is sneaking his phone to look at Pokémon pictures 😂 Hang in there, Momma! You got this.

  21. Lewis says:

    Hot darn, do I ever relate to this Jewel!
    ‘Spitfire’ child is a delicate way to put it – my partner and I both feel like we are just a big old hot mess pretty much all the time. It’s a good job that they’re worth every minute of the hair-pulling (often literally) sleeplessness, tantrums and more eh?!
    Thank you for opening up to us all x

  22. Lexi Angel says:

    I know it might sound like fudge, but both my boys were angelic when they were young, no temper tantrums in public, no screaming, no demands for things in the supermarket checkout queue, no meltdowns.

    Their father on the other hand was a nightmare… tantrums, punching (inanimate) things, demands, yelling, slamming about… complete pain in the rear… the ‘terrible twenties’ and ‘teenage thirties’ were when I most reached for the corkscrew and hidden stash of chocolate… 🙂

  23. Tommie-Amber Pirie says:

    Beautiful Jewel. Thanks for this. xo

  24. MelissaS says:

    My daughter likes to give us kisses and cuddles. Yay! She’ll even just grab your legs and plant one on you. Except she’s at the WRONG height now. She’s headed butt my husband in the groin a few times. And one time I was just out of the shower and naked… And she went in for a leg kiss and ended up nose in ass crack and I’m freaking out while she thinks it funny.

    She’s four. (I screamed at you at a con in Cleveland once that her middle name is Kaylee LOL but some days she’s more Jayne.) And she’s decided more days than not that she doesn’t like her dinner and we sit for 40 min to get her to eat one bite when she suddenly remembers that’s her FAVORITE meal and she’s so happy! 🧐

    My son is 2 and just getting to the ultra independent phase. So if you do anything for him, tantrum. You have to let him try then ask you to help. I opened a juice the other day and he ended up on the floor sobbing for 3 minutes. I had to put it down on the counter and walk away so he could get up and get it off the counter. Sigh.

    Thank you for sharing.

  25. Patricia K says:

    I have twins (now 5), and I get asked all the time “How do you do it” like I’m performing some magic act. I usually just shrug and answer, ” I just do”. But the reality is I would lock myself in the kitchen (via babygate) and cry into my ice cream. Or I would text my husband in frustration that the twins won’t nap and I’ve been trying for an hour and everyone is crying. The times I would load them in the car and just drive hoping they’d fall asleep and I can get some peace and quiet. Or the times I would just sit and stare at the destruction that 2 toddlers can cause and wonder if my house will ever be clean again. But of course I only posted the funny stories and cute and pictures.

  26. Saskia says:

    I dunno, you sound like you need a hug. I see you. I hear you. I feel those same feels. Soldier on mama, we are all in this together alone.

  27. Don Getschman says:

    My daughter once threw one of her famous Grand Mal hissy fits while our family was touring Hammersmith mansion, the former summer residence of the John F Kennedy family. Despite my best efforts, I could not subdue her savage performance before raising the ire of one of our tour guides.
    “Sir! Come with me please …”
    Before I knew it, we found ourselves in Caroline’s bedroom, of all places, where we remained locked up for the remainder of the tour. As the two of us sat and quietly refected on our behavior, I could not help but wonder if we weren’t the first to be sequestered in this space under similar circumstances . Nah! The Kennedy family would never have had to endure such behaviour … would they???

  28. Pete says:

    Hi, I’m a dad and was self employed so was the at home parent with two daughters three years apart. It’s dam tough at times. My are grown now and can still be tough at times. When they are little you teach them to take care of themselves and your constantly on watch to keep them from harming themselves or worst. It passes. I’m in denial that my youngest turned 21. Eve thought she turned 26 this year.

  29. Maggie says:

    Definitely needed this! Toddlers, man. Mine is almost 2. Since we had so much trouble conceiving her, I both appreciate her so so much but also don’t want to complain or admit when it’s hard because I have at least 4 friends who want but can’t have children. So I’m one of the lucky ones. And like 90% of the time, she’s amazing. But those tantrums. And the impulse control. You can’t punish someone who doesn’t connect throwing things with consequences yet. Big feelings. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not alone in this!

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