I slid my items closer to the cashier so the guy behind me could put his things down. "Thank you," he said as the large bag of dog food slid off his arm and on to the counter. He looked relieved and slightly embarrassed. "It wasn't THAT heavy but ..." His voice trailed off as he looked at his shoes and took a long sip from his iced coffee.
"That was 15 pounds of deadweight you were carrying with one arm!" I exclaimed. "Of COURSE it was heavy!" He looked relieved and thanked me and cracked a joke about his other hand holding his less-than-healthy beverage. "No worries," I replied. " I am usually carrying my 18-month-old in one arm and a coffee in the other. I GET it."
The moment I finished saying those words he lit up. "I have a 20-month-old! Aren't they awesome?" He was beaming.
We discussed how amazing our toddlers were as the cashier rang out my things and bagged them for me. We were two complete strangers, in a giant store, buying crackers, soap, and dog food. We knew nothing about each other except that we both had children. It was the only fact we needed to know to talk like old friends.
There is so much emphasis online about the "mommy wars" and how parents are constantly being pitted against each other. They bash each other and mock each other and tell each other, in no uncertain terms, how terrible they are at parenting and how they are doing it all wrong.
But here I was, talking, in real life, to another parent and not a single controversial topic came up. He never asked me if we vaccinated our children and I never asked about his stance on circumcision. It didn't matter. We were a couple of adults talking about the greatest things in our lives: our children.
I left that store feeling amazing. Why can't more interactions with fellow parents be like that? When did we become a culture so obsessed with parenting "the right way" that we forgot to simply enjoy the fantastic little people we created?
I want to go back to a time when you would bump into an old friend and instantly whip out photos of your baby to not-so-humbly brag about them. A time when your feeding and diapering and philosophical choices were not up for public scrutiny.
Did this time ever exist? Or has it always been this way?
Maybe, in some ways, it has. Maybe the advent of social media has simply circled, highlighted, and wrapped neon lights around the judgement. Maybe, in an effort to be the best parent ever, we have forgotten to focus less on what the Joneses are doing (and bashing them for it) and focus more on our own children.
I think about these things a lot. I regularly post on social media. It is how I share my writing as well as my parenting journey. Every time I write something to post, I take a moment to decide if it could be construed in a way I did not intend. I decide if I will be attacked or told how wrong I am. I decide if it is worth sharing at all.
It is insane. Parenting in an age of social media is impossible for me to navigate. It seems like no one can parent right. Every choice is scrutinized and declared wrong. As a reaction to these muddy waters and mixed messages, I deleted the Facebook app off my phone, the primary place I was checking in from. I can still access the mega-social media site but not as quickly, mindlessly, and frequently. I have to intentionally log on.
I have decided that I want my newsfeed to be a series of real-life conversations. Facebook will be replaced with potlucks, stores, farmer's markets, gatherings, and events. I want the like button to be a genuine smile, the new heart reaction to be an actual hug, and the laughter to be genuine. I want my friends list to be people I see regularly and for my connections to be real.
I am still online, I will still read and post and share. I will also work harder in nurturing those real life connections. I will relish in the moments, standing in the checkout line, gushing about my children with another parent, not worrying who or how or why we do what we do. Simply knowing that we are all in this together and it is awesome.
Michelle is a writer, wife and mother of two small girls. She has a penchant for coffee and rarely turns down cookies. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her family is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the bumbling sidekick. Her writing can be seen on UrbanMommies, Mamalode, BLUNTmoms, in the HerStories anthology, Mother Through The Darkness, and on her blog at www.JuiceboxConfession.com. Contact Michelle at Michelle@JuiceboxConfession.com.