When I go on holidays, and I do what lots of people do – I put photos up on Facebook. It’s the modern version of the postcard isn’t it – “Having a lovely time, wish you were here!”
So here’s the Facebook version of one holiday, as told through the photos I posted on social media:
There was a photo of my small boy, floating in a rubber ring in the pool – he’s the only one in shot, the water is light blue and gold from the sun, and he has a big grin on his face. Clearly, we’re having the time of our lives in this campsite with amazing swimming pools, which my children love. And which appear to be almost empty, so we’ve plenty of space to swim. And the sun is shining. And the child is smiling. It’s a perfect holiday.
There was a photo of my two girls outside a cathedral – it tells you that we’re sight-seeing, we’re getting some culture, we’re learning about history, and the kids are loving it. It’s a perfect holiday.
There was a photo of my eldest and me, smiling in a restaurant, both looking delighted – clearly we’re having a wonderful family meal. It’s a perfect holiday.
And there was a photo of my little boy and me, sitting on the deck of the mobile home – he’s kissing my forehead. In the midst of all the swimming and sight-seeing and pizza-eating, there’s always time for a cuddle and a kiss with the boy who is still my baby. Because it’s all just so achingly perfect.
And it’s all true – well, kind of. But there’s also a more honest version of our holiday – the story behind the images.
In each case, there’s a photo that could have been taken two minutes before or five minutes after, which would tell of a very different holiday. The photos I didn’t share on Facebook, or didn’t take at all.
A short while before the swimming pool photo, I was threatening to march one of the kids back to the mobile home, if she didn’t stop shouting about her missing goggles. I was breaking up an argument between the two girls about the one remaining pair of goggles. I was trying to explain to the small boy for the eighty-fifth time that he can’t just wander off, and he can’t just jump in at the deep end (“But why can’t me swim here? You are MEAN!” “Eh, because you’re three and you can’t actually swim.”)
There’s no photo of the wasp that stung one child, and no photo of the anxiety when we lost sight of another child for ten minutes. There might be a photo somewhere of the large glass of wine I poured that night, once they were all in bed.
The cathedral photo was taken in 35 degree heat, with two participants who were eager to get the photo over and done with so they could get some ice-cream and air-con. We’d had a fraught journey (“This is taking FOREVER”), a complaint-laden wander around the city-centre, followed by relief when I said that after we’d seen the cathedral we could have ice-cream. Then finally they smiled. Snap – that’s the photo that will remind us of our amazing day-trip – box firmly ticked.
The restaurant trip was lovely and stressful and funny and awful and messy and brief, the way restaurant trips with three small kids tend to be. But hey, we have a photo that will make us think it was mostly just lovely, so that’s not such a bad thing.
And the one of my small boy kissing my forehead? That’s real, but then again, he’s probably apologising for running off/ locking us out of the mobile/ spilling the juice/ doing absolutely nothing we asked him to do for the entire two weeks.
But who wants to see a photo of that?
I suspect I’m not the only one guilty of sharing my best photos on Facebook, but isn’t that what we’ve always done. It’s just that previous generations did it offline – framing the smiling pictures of the sunniest days.
I think it’s okay to want to capture our good times and I think it’s human to want to share them. And as for the horror stories? They’ll keep. They’re for swapping over some well-earned post-holiday wine.
A version of this post was originally published on HerFamily.ie