o what use is social media if not for bragging about your kids (or fomenting revolution)? In general I’m not particularly calling for any revolution — except perhaps against dental insurance companies. Seriously people, you have no idea how much you are being taken advantage of; even those of you who think you have “pretty good coverage.” But I digress. That means the only thing I have to offer the internet of any value is bragging about my kids.
I make no apologies about it. Heck, I’ve got an entire blog dedicated to them. They are the only thing I have given the world that has made my time here worthwhile. They are my life’s work and the metric by which I measure my success and value as a member of the human race. They are amazing kids, all three of them, and I am justifiably proud of them. And ultimately that’s what keeps me coming back and wasting so much time on social media.
It isn’t the “Candy Crush” time wasters, or the fast-track to news on the latest Batman casting rumors. It’s sharing with the people in my life (past and present) that which I am most proud of – that which is quintessentially me – that which consumes my every thought and informs my every decision: my family. Because let’s get real – I really have no life, and therefore nothing to offer, outside of my family.
So share I have since the first day I set foot in Facebook back in 2008. I’m the obnoxious, in-your-face guy spamming your newsfeed with pictures “Look at this awesome picture she drew. Isn’t she amazing?” or “Look at them on the roller coaster. Aren’t they amazing?” or “Here he is wearing his sister’s clothes. Isn’t he amazing?” or “Check us out posing outside the gates to Skywalker Ranch. Aren’t my kids amazing?” For those of you who only follow this blog’s FB feed, you may think it’s bad. Trust me. My personal feed is ten times worse.
This weekend was nothing different. We went up to visit my parents at the lake for Episode V’s 5th birthday, and I fully expected to spam all my FB followers with scads of obnoxiously cute pictures of that weekend’s activities, chief among which was an hour spent with Episodes IV and V on jet skis, something we’ve never done before. We mounted our jet skis and I went out of my way to get just the right shot of us ready to head out. I posted the picture with the title “Episode V’s 5th birthday of awesomeness” and we headed out for an hour of thrills on the water.
When we got back and the kids were all packed up in the car I thumbed the FB app on my phone to obsessively see what had happened while we were out. A comment under my recently posted picture grabbed me.
“I am jealous. You give your kids things I couldn’t even dream of.”
Maybe my FB friend thought we frivolously bought and now owned two jet skis just for the sake of my son’s 5th birthday. I wanted to make it clear we don’t roll like that.
“Rentals. Rentals,” I replied.
“Still, it’d take nearly three months of paychecks to get that done”
That short little exchange stuck with me all weekend. I went to bed last night thinking about it, and it was on my mind when I woke up. All I wanted to do was share my joy with the people in my life, and in so doing I had inadvertently made someone else feel marginalized.
The last thing in the entire world I want to do is make someone else feel bad.
I’ve known these people for the better part of seven years. They are good people, all-in parents (and hardcore dorks to boot). They pour everything they have into raising their kids. They work very hard to make ends meet and they deserve all the dignity and respect that comes with that kind of commitment.
…but when you’re excited about something, as I am about my family and was about our little jet skiing adventure, it’s easy to lose sight of just what a luxury it is to “have” anything at all to pour into raising your kids.
Being a dad doesn’t suck. But flaunting it might.
I am very, very cognizant of how fortunate I am to be in the position I am. My career affords me more free time than most, latitude with how I use that time, and the ability to rent two jet skis on short notice should the opportunity present itself. In fact, that’s precisely why I chose this career over others that I might have enjoyed more but didn’t provide the fringe benefits that this one does. Every day I am aware of how lucky I am, and I never ever take that luck for granted. It gives me the ability to revel in what gives me joy (my family) and I want to share that joy with the people in my life. For crying out loud, I’ve got an entire blog dedicated to sharing that love.
But perhaps, in my enthusiasm, I’ve lost sight of how that same enthusiasm can come across to other people. There are people in my newsfeed who I know would love more than anything to have a family and children, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t materialized. The last thing I want is for my constant “I love my family!” posts to be a droning reminder to someone else about something that they want but don’t have.
There are people in my newsfeed who would kill to go to Comic Con… even once. Perhaps my “*Sigh* Comic Con isn’t what it used to be” posts are the sort of 1st world problems Veruca Salt would complain about.
There are people in my newsfeed who would love to take a little mini vacation on the weekends. The last thing I want is for my “look at this Optimus Prime costume we made” or “check out what I brought home this weekend” or “build a hovercraft in your backyard for around $200” posts to bring someone down because making ends meet doesn’t leave room for those sorts of extras.
What I don’t want to be is that guy who says “Look what I got. Neener, neener, neener!”
As with anything, moderation is always the best way to go. There’s no shame in being proud of your family. There’s no shame in proclaiming your love for them. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong, necessarily.
But as with all things, I’ve got kids to bring up. If you subscribe to the argument that the best way to teach a child is to lead by example, then it can’t hurt for me to stop down before I do something and think about how that might come across from someone else’s perspective.
I suppose the lesson here is that turning the dork-volume all the way up to 10 really isn’t necessary when 9 will get the job done just as effectively.