Today I posted a whole bunch of photos on Facebook. I don’t do this often. I usually have no idea where my camera is because I have to keep it out of reach from my kids, and once I find it, then that means I must also look for the cord to upload and I am guessing you already know how fruitful that probably is.
But today I found the cord and remembered I put the camera near my husband’s computer and there they were, forty new pictures of my little darlings for my five hundred closest friends to see.
Two feelings smash into my mind when I post pictures. One of them is that people will see my apartment and liken me to a hoarder. While I fight the good clutter fight all day and into just about every evening, it does not look like I am winning in my photos. A reason for this is that just about every piece of furniture we own has been, in the last three and a half years, trashed in ways that are completely horrid. And disgusting. The couch looks like a relief map of bygone breastmilk and snack stains. My mother says I should nix eating in the living room, but that would mean hanging out in the kitchen almost nonstop, and the kitchen, for babies and toddlers, is basically a death trap. We have to stack our chairs in the pantry just so no one will tip them over and land herself in the Emergency Room. I am constantly cleaning but when I see my kids against the backdrop of my humble dwelling, it looks like A and E should be paying for my personal organizer and Oprah should be buying me shelving from Ikea.
The other feeling is that people will catch all too real glimpses into my way of parenting. I must say, for the record, that I think far too much parenting is not glimpsed enough. We do most of it in private. This is why new mothers seem so crazed and baby obsessed: new mothers are realizing, Good Lord, how do people do this? Whether it is baby sleep or baby eating or temper tantrums, it is hard to figure out what is normal. Good parenting books tell you there are many variations of normal. But very few parenting books tell you which combos of not normal could possibly land your kid in therapy years from now.
Today I posted a series of pictures of my kids rough housing on a chair. The chair is old. Very old. And it looks it. My kids are having a fantastic time. Mostly it is my daughter pulling and tugging on my son with an obsessive love I used to reserve for ex boyfriends. My son’s shirt is stained and he is drinking from a sippy cup and what he is drinking is not very wholesome. What he is drinking is red juice. If you have done your helicopter parent reading, you know that red juice is usually deemed bad. Unless it’s grape juice, which is pretty silly to give to someone who is going to drop it more times than a drunk drops his keys. Or cranberry juice, and I have only heard tell of one kid in my life who drinks that stuff willingly, or any other of the juices that are red you can get at Whole Foods for four times the amount you would spend on juice for your kids.
While not everyone who clicked on those pictures sat on the other side of the proverbial glass and polished her stones, I will say that judgment seems to run rampant in the Museum of Me that is our national form of recreation. We click on those photos and we make assessments. They’re not all bad, but they’re not all benign either. And they are by far the most searing on the Mother’s websites I visit. Searing to the point where you begin to wonder whose mother’s are these? Because when you visit the Museum of Me, you are automatically defined as you. And you and me are not the same thing, according to Einstein, and I am apt to agree.
There is glass between the two, and it shines with the luster of a peculiar vitriol, a melancholy panic.
A few weeks ago I clicked on the album of a girl I knew from school. We weren’t friends really, but from visiting her Museum of Me I was able to see she was kinda more interesting than I had taken a gander for years ago. I could deduce, from her Museum of Me, that she’d married young, started a family, and recently someone around her had begun to do very, very well for him or herself. Part of her Museum of Me was dedicated to her new house. This is the kind of house people were snapping up five years ago and are all foreclosed upon out in Phoenix kind of house. Ubiquitous granite counter tops nestle chrome appliances. Hard wood flooring stretches out at great expanses. The kids rooms have double beds, which is often a sign of upwardly mobile wealth, unless, of course, two or three kids sleep in there together, and even then you never know, what with those rich evangelicals running about. Sometimes it’s a lifestyle choice. But that is not the case here. The kids had double beds, not single twins, because their parents are kinda loaded and this recession ain’t got nothin’ on their parents.
The captions are telling. Things are being done to this house that is already making my mouth water. Painting and yard stuff and no matter how radical and anti establishment you like to think you are, you can tell it is a warm house, a good place in which to grow up.
But the comments are telling, too. “It will look so good when you fill it up.” And, “What a lovely color that will be when it’s finally finished.” Dig dig dig with each little letter under each tiny brick of picture forming this Museum of Me.
I have done it myself, this stone throwing. I supposed it could be called natural, and yet it does not feel like this should be so. I wish I could keep my arm from even lifting, even if I don’t actually throw and think it, never mind if I actually throw and hit something.
Because the peculiar vitriol and melancholy panic, whether it is wrapped around what we think it means to be a good parent or plain house envy, comes from instantly feeling that Me and You are not only separate, but that each is at odds with the other. One can’t have without the other needing. One can’t need without the other resenting. Neither can celebrate what the other has: happy kids, a warm house, one lovely life laid out in bricks of mega pixeled color. Peculiar vitriol wins because hunger cries louder than love, and in the Museum of Me, everyone is very hungry. The food court is a long walk away.