Our family recently took a 2-week road trip through WA, OR, and CA. We visited six state and four national parks, camped under the Redwoods, frolicked in the Pacific Ocean, hiked through breathtaking scenery, and ate and laughed with friends and family.
I’ve been happily perusing the photos from our vacation (or “family trip” to be more accurate, per M. Blazoned’s brilliant analysis). Like most vacation pictures, these photos show gorgeous vistas and genuine smiles, children playing and families picnicking, magical moments of beauty and bliss.
But photos never show the whole picture, do they? This seems to be a problem in the Facebook age. Studies suggest that constantly seeing people’s “highlight reels” on Facebook can lead to sadness and/or jealousy. Apparently, seeing photos of our friends basking on beautiful beaches while we’re waging the war on whining with our wee ones can make make us feel all icky inside. Go figure.
Since I don’t like the thought of people feeling icky inside, I thought it might be helpful to share what you don’t see in our fun family vacation photos:
What you see: Happy kids peering down the empty center of an ancient Redwood tree.
What you don’t see: My kid stomping away angrily because I wouldn’t let her slide down the hollow after our much older friend (and Boy Scout) did it first and found it to be too treacherous. (That slope was much longer and steeper than it looks in the photo.)
What you see: Happy boy on the banks of a swimming hole in Yosemite National Park gazing lovingly at his mother.
What you don’t see: Me carrying unhappy boy away from the swimming hole while he throws an enormous conniption fit over the fact that it was time to go and we couldn’t find the “perfect hiking stick” he had found on the way there. Someone actually slow clapped as I escorted him away. Good times.
What you see: Our big group of family and friends walking into the woods for a lovely picnic lunch under the amazing granite formations of Yosemite.
What you don’t see: We had just driven three cars full of hungry children in circles for 20 minutes trying to find a parking space near the visitor’s center, to no avail. (Fair warning: Yosemite Valley is NUTS in August.)
What you see: Our little nature lover showing how big the sugar pine cone she found was.
What you don’t see: The teeth-gnashing negotiations that ensued when I said she couldn’t bring the sap-dripping pine cone home with her. Taking this photo was her consolation prize.
What you see: BoyWonder REALLY enjoying his hard-earned ice cream after a day of hiking at Yosemite.
What you don’t see: The whining that ensued after he finished his ice cream because I would not also buy him Cheetos. GAH.
What you see: Six happy kids in a hammock at the campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
What you don’t see: Four parents telling kids for the 527th time to stop throwing dirt, stop yelling and screeching (sorry, fellow campers), and stop playing in the fire.
What you see: A gorgeous view Crater Lake’s incomparably blue waters from the Phantom Ship overlook.
What you don’t see: Me spending the entire 1/2-mile hike to this overlook dealing with a six-year-old having a cow because I wouldn’t let him get a Swiss Army knife. (Man, traveling is tough on the six-year-olds.)
What you see: Kids enjoying beautiful Plaikni Falls in Crater Lake National Park.
What you don’t see: Every one of those kids revolting over the 1.3 mile hike to get there because (and I quote) “We’ve already seeeeen enough beautiful sceneryyyyy!” Wah. Wah. Wah.
What you see: Our three loving children bonding over the beautiful sunset at Crater Lake.
What you don’t see: Me working through one child’s emotional crisis in the car ten minutes before this, and two children fighting so badly ten minutes after this that I made them sit in the car together at the campground until they hugged and made up.
Parenting doesn’t stop when you’re on vacation, alas. And photos don’t show the whole story, it’s true.
It’s not that these photos don’t show reality. They do. These were real, honest, lovely snippets in time filled with joy and wonder. But it’s also reality that they were bookended with not-so-lovely moments. Such is life. Especially with children, God love ’em.
So don’t ever look at people’s vacation photos and think you’re seeing the whole picture. I guarantee their trips have as much normal family and kid drama as yours do.
The pictures they share won’t show that, of course. We want to remember the good times, not the annoying ones. And over time, the whining, arguing, and complaining that come with traveling all melt away, and what we’re left with is the beautiful memories we’ve chosen to capture and hold onto.
That is, after all, why we take vacation photos. 🙂