We were supposed to leave for our adventure at 9:30, before the Oklahoma sun began beating down in full force, but our friends had car trouble. Forty-five minutes after our planned departure, I finally piled my girls into our Santa Fe. Our friends would meet us at the zoo after their car issue was resolved. The heat index was already over 100, and my 11-month-old had not taken her morning nap, a sure sign of impending disaster.
The diaper bag ran out of snacks, and we all ran out of patience before our friends were able to leave the car dealership. Determined, at the very least, to see them before we headed home, I bought an expensive and tasteless zoo lunch and coaxed my girls to "eat and have a good time, dang it".
When the actual temperature reached 105, our friends arrived. I unenthusiastically pushed my melting babes to the flamingo exhibit, where everyone (including me) completely fell apart. Screaming ensued, and we made a beeline to our overheated SUV, but not before my two-year-old unbuckled herself from the stroller and crashed onto the concrete.
"At least they'll nap when we get home," I reassured myself. They didn't. They were both too traumatized to calm themselves down, and my own hysterics were definitely not soothing.
Going to the zoo was a horrible idea for many reasons including the heat, the ages of my kids, and the day's already-thwarted plans. I knew that it was a horrible plan, and I went anyway.
I wanted to go to the zoo more than my kids did. I just wanted to be a "good mom". But I wanted it at their expense.
Social media does this thing to us, but we also do it to ourselves, this placing of expectations and definitions upon us of what it means to be a good parent, or even a good person. We see others' best moments through a filter and determine to make them our best moments, too.
I longed to create an amazing summer for my people last year. In my mind, this meant going to as many "experiences" as possible. The zoo was one of them. The splash pad was another. My oldest HATED the splash pad, but I was determined to change her mind about it, so I kept taking her. Everyone cried every time.
This summer, we've mostly stayed home. We did go to the zoo, once, for an hour, and that was after rescheduling twice with my friend (which I should have done last year). No one cried. Even with the same Oklahoma heat that we all endured in Summer 2016, I would go so far as to say that this year's zoo trip was enjoyable.
I've learned a few things in the past twelve months.
One. At their young ages, my kids really can't handle much. They like being home, and they like their little routines. Often, they're okay with doing activities that I consider "boring." Maybe I'm the one who isn't. But I think I can learn to be. I probably need to lower my expectations.
Two. The moments between the "Instagram moments" are often the most precious. Obviously, I take and post pictures at our bigger events. I rarely ever post pictures of myself doing a floor puzzle with my oldest or reading my youngest's favorite book for the 87th time (today). There are a thousand little things that we do as a family every day that don't get documented. So no, I'm not "cool" in terms of giving my kids the most extravagant experiences. In the "small great things" that we do, though, they're happy.
Three. There is no better way to crush your spirit than by playing the comparison game. This is true in all areas of life. If you're scrolling through your social media feed, as I often do, and feeling as though you're not attractive, not a good parent, not well-dressed, not adventurous, not a foodie, etc. etc. etc., I dare you to turn off your phone and begin to consider the things that you are. You cannot compare your own life to what you see of another's through a filter.
Four. It's okay to say no. As a mom of young children, I frequently feel as though I'm in a never-ending season of "no". No, we can't go do that today because it's during naptime. We've had a rough day, so I think we are going to stay home this afternoon. We haven't had much time as a family recently, so we'll take a raincheck on dinner. Be a Nap Nazi. Take a deep breath. Cancel your plans. You might have FOMO or FOHOF (Fear of Hurting Other's Feelings), but I can almost guarantee that your kids don't and that your friends will totally understand.
Hopefully my daughters won't remember that horrendous zoo day last year. Maybe they'll remember this year's good one. Either way, I want them to remember a mom who gave them herself, because they need me the most.