You may have seen me post some enviable photos of our recent family holiday to Thailand and Myanmar. Sun shining, azure water, bare-bottomed kids playing in the sand. Paradise. And it was. Those photos are real. But just like everything else on social media, they only tell part of the story.
The problem with presenting an airbrushed version of our lives, is that it fails to connect deeply with the human experience, which, let’s face it, is messy. And I fear we can make each other feel inadequate because as we collapse on the couch at the end of a long day, when the kids have finally gone to sleep after demanding one more story and one more song and a cup of milk and to keep the light on and to open the door and to find their dummy (no, not that one, the pink one), the perfect lives we see of others through a distorted screen seem unattainable.
So in the pursuit of presenting a more authentic version of life, sharing the whole truth, today I will tell you a little story from our family holiday. A less glamorous story. A story that didn’t get photographed.
One blue-skied morning we found an unusually quiet beach in Koh Samui with white sand and shallow water; perfect for kids. When we finished paddling in the warm lagoon, I dried Aisha, my two-and-a-half year old daughter (one of the twins) and tried to dress her. Aisha, was in the first few days of toilet training, not because we had planned it or because she seemed ready for this transition, but because she violently refused to wear the Thai nappies (diapers, for the non-Australians) which were different to her Australian ones. And at the beach that day she also refused to wear undies because they were the wrong colour. I tried cajoling, negotiating, bribing, demanding, but she won, as she usually does. So on went her shorts without anything underneath, and we headed to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
After a lovely Thai meal, my husband went to get the car with the two boys, while I stayed with Aisha and our friend Wut to pay the bill. As I stood at the cashier, I heard a concerned little voice behind me. “Mummy”. I turned around to see Aisha running awkwardly towards me. As she did, poo fell out of her shorts on to the floor of the restaurant. And I don't mean a single formed piece of poo but blobs of the stuff smeared over the floor, her shoes and clothes.
I picked her up, and held her wriggling body in a horizontal position, in an attempt to defy gravity. “Ok, Aisha,” I said trying to stay calm, “let’s go to the toilet.”
“No,” she screamed and kicked her legs wildly. “I’m not going! I’m not going! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!”
Everyone turned to look at us: a screaming two year old being held sideways by someone, who let’s face it, doesn’t look like her mother. Ok, I thought, if she’s not going to let me take her to the toilet we'll just have to deal with this here, in the middle of the restaurant with an audience of horrified customers. I grabbed a packet of wet wipes from our baby bag, and started to pick up the poo from the floor, but where could I put it? Then I remembered. Our left-over lunch had been packed up in a plastic bag to take home. So out came the food and in went the poo. Next, in a surgical-like maneuverer I removed Aisha’s shorts and into the plastic bag they went too. More wet wipes to clean her bottom, her shoes and the rest of the floor.
In the middle of all of this, the waiter came over to explain that the credit card machine wasn’t working and I’d have to pay cash. What? I didn’t have enough cash. All I had was a bag of shit!
In the end Wut got some cash from the car, I paid as quickly as I could, and scampered off head lowered in shame, carrying Aisha, the take-away food and my bag of poo.
Now, that is the other side of the story, my friends. I tell you this not to complain, or detract from what was a wonderful holiday. But rather to acknowledge that even in tropical paradise, life has challenges. And that’s ok. That’s the nature of this human experience. Without challenges we wouldn’t grow or evolve.
So next time you look at someone’s seemingly-perfect life on Facebook or Instagram, remember that it is only part of the story, and everyone is also juggling their own bag of poo. Send them some love and be grateful for your own life, challenges and all.