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Column: Parenting struggles are real, but so is the hope
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Four boys sat on a blanket having a picnic in our front yard one day this week during fall break. The weather was perfect — cool but warmed by the sun, nothing but blue skies.

They smiled for the camera, sandwiches and oranges in hand.

I didn’t post it to social media, but I almost did. It was a good moment. 

I often feel like I need to qualify those kinds of good posts, because what looked picture perfect was the moment after 30 minutes of screaming and fighting, including my youngest screaming at me about what he wanted in his sandwich. There was some kind of physical altercation between my two boys and a timeout for both of them. Several threats were made about the picnic not happening. I’m sure the neighbors who were invited to the picnic guessed it was all going to be canceled, but I pivoted with the timeout instead.

Even afterward it took a lot of cajoling to get my youngest to talk with me about why he was so upset that he was screaming in my face about turkey or roast beef.

And then we finally got all the plates made, and I sat on the porch eating my sandwich relaxed.

I know I could just focus on the pretty picture — leave out the qualifiers. But it’s so easy to feel inadequate scrolling through social media looking at everyone’s highlight reels. So, I like to keep it real. There’s a lot of good — and a lot of struggle.

What I did post to social media over fall break was photos from a concert I went to with my oldest. And it was actually almost perfect. We strolled around The Battery with our neighbors, met my sister and family for dinner and then headed into the venue. And when the headliner came on stage, we sang along to every song, including my kid’s favorite — lyrics that remind me of all the struggle and hope I have parenting him. 

Four days later and we were back to big-time struggles.

So, even my social media feed is just the highlights of a fantastic first concert. 

A tough conversation had later on a big chair in our sunroom just didn’t scream “post me to Instagram.”

So, how are my boys? How was fall break?

A mess. They’re a mess. That social media feed is just a sliver of the best times. There are plenty of other times that I wanted to scream, not take a photo.

Sometimes it’s a mess of toys that have spent a long time in the dirt underneath our deck and then been brought upstairs and placed in the middle of the living room — because obviously that’s where dirty toys belong. That’s a mess that’s at least one part endearing — oh those boys and their shenanigans. That photo could make it onto Facebook.

Sometimes it’s a mess of words that shouldn’t be coming out of the mouths of children. If someone could snag a video of that happening, I’d appreciate it so long as you don’t post it anywhere. They always tattle but never say the words where I can hear them.

Sometimes it’s a child who thinks he’s sneaky. He walks by carrying something, heading toward the basement. “Come here. What are you taking downstairs?” Child who just had something in his hands comes over empty handed. “What were you taking downstairs?” 

Child walks to another room — talks about a toy airplane. I walk over to the stairs and find a canister of raisins and a little jar of candy eyeballs. 

I’d be curious to know what his plan with those two items was. I know, I know — one day I may find them trying to sneak something that’s a real mess.

And sometimes it’s a hot glue gun that was still plugged in at 8 p.m., hours after anyone — without permission, I’d add — had used said hot glue gun. Who left it plugged in? I think I know. But he’s not saying. At least it didn’t catch fire.

And sometimes it’s just a mess of big feelings like grief, fear and anger that are a heckuva lot bigger than sneaking candy or leaving literal messes. The struggle is real. So is the hope.


Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.