How Many Likes Is Enough Likes?

Writer, interviewer and editor Helen Whitaker knows the real struggle of being a parent – in fact, she has written a book about it. Here, in her continuing column for SheerLuxe, she talks about how planned magical family occasions seem doomed to fail but how perfect moments sneak up on you when you are least expecting them.

Anyone else dread ‘magical family moments’? Not the actual experience of them, obviously, more the anticipation, when you just know something that is supposed to be heart-warming and bonding as a family just isn’t going to work out the way you hope (i.e. resulting in a picture-perfect scene that will garner dozens of social media likes). Family events, milestone moments, or a day out you’ve had planned for ages ‘that everyone will just love’, it’s like the reality of it collapses under the pressure of the build up.
Take Christmas 2018, at aged two it was the first year my son was old enough to be aware of it (although don’t get me started on trying to explain Santa/the Nativity to a two-year-old. It’s only when you do that you realise how totally batshit both concepts actually are).
“We can all decorate the tree together!” my husband and I said, “It’ll become a lovely family tradition.” Cut to half an hour later and my child was kicking the Christmas lights and doing fake sobbing because we’re weren’t paying him enough attention while we tried to unravel the Christmas lights onto the actual tree. We practically had to wrestle him into a photo in front of the final product. In it his bottom lip is sticking out and my husband sports the barely tolerant look of a celebrity that’s been interrupted for a selfie while enjoying a private meal in a restaurant.
Ditto his first snowfall (“Want to go home”), any time we decide to eat out rather than stay at home (thirty quid wasted on lunches that we tag team eating while the other follows our child as he rampages around a café/pub/restaurant) and the presentation of his first scooter (twenty minutes of negotiating over wearing the helmet followed by a frazzled non-attempt at actually riding it). It’s one (of the many) reasons I know our family wouldn’t be cut out for the influencer game – we just can’t nail the photo ops. I often wonder how the hell Victoria Beckham got then-toddler Harper not only to sit on the front row of her runway show in 2013, but to look rapt enough for the photos of her + David + siblings to melt everyone’s hearts in the ensuing coverage. I can’t even cajole my child into looking happy in a photo next to a chocolate sundae in Pizza Express!
It’s become a running joke. Ah, there’s us all looking stressed in front of the London Eye/Brighton Pier/a model railway. We’re flying to my cousin’s wedding in Portugal this summer, which is the first time Isaac is flying abroad and something he’s very excited about. Which means my husband and I are trying to manage our expectations of how it will actually play out, and half-bracing for a meltdown on the plane.
Because for us, the special moments seem to happen when we’re least expecting them. Yesterday I came out of the tube station at the same time as my husband and son were making their way home from pre-school. Isaac ran up for a cuddle before insisting that we all skipped home together hand-in-hand, which we did. It was ridiculous and we couldn’t stop laughing. And there are no photos of it because we were too busy enjoying the moment. Which is perhaps wherein lies the lesson.
Helen Whitaker’s debut novel, The School Run, is out on 22nd August, and available for pre-order now.
You can follow Helen on Instagram and Twitter at @itshelenwhitaker and @helbobwhitakerrespectively. Helen’s debut novel, The School Run, about the comic lengths parents will go to for a school place, is out in August 2019.

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