These Pictures aren't Real Life

Cheap digital media allows me to keep hundreds upon hundreds of pictures of me spending time with my children. My kids will have 100x more pictures and videos of their youth than I have of mine. Viewing them is an endless cascade of joy and smiles. Everywhere we go, everything we do, I have a camera in my pocket and near-infinite free storage space. And with it, I can construct a narrative that illustrates years of happy memories. 

Boy it's such a lie.

Me and my daughter took a train to Toronto
This kid came along too
We do lots of stuff like this. We go to fairs...

...And sometimes we just hang out at home

These are real pictures but this isn't real life. These pictures are an unrepresentative sample of my relationship with my kids. They're a tiny fraction of total life, and they're selected for their portrayal of good times.

It's easy enough to fool other people with these pictures. I've posted a picture of my kids on my Instagram feed every day for over a year. It gives followers a false impression of what content that fills my life. Every time someone goes on Instagram they can draw impressions based on the biased information I leave for them.

As easy as it is to fool the world, it's even easier to fool myself.

I recall all the good times when I browse my photos. It doesn't remind me of all the tough times, and it certainly doesn't remind me of all the unmemorable times, which is what comprises almost all of life.

So here's a guideline for not terrible parenting: Improve the unmemorable time with your kids. Your life with your children is made up of what you don't remember, and it's most of the time. Most of their actual lived experience is made up of forgotten time. Your relationship is built on shared experience that neither of you will remember. What is that experience actually made up of? How much of it is ignoring each other? How much is bickering? Arguing? complaining? Getting frustrated by things you don't necessarily need to be frustrated by?

Enjoy the dull moments because they'll be gone one day, and you won't even be left with so much as a memory.

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