Sometimes I can't handle Pinterest. What started out as a list of ideas and inspiration has become more of a list of unfulfilled aspirations. Lately, when I look at my boards of perfectly dressed people, perfectly cooked meals, perfectly behaved children, perfectly planned schedules, perfectly cleaned and decorated rooms, and perfectly lived lives, I start to feel that I'll never measure up to this list of perfection that created itself slowly, click by click, until suddenly there's a mountain of goals laid out before me that I'll never be able to meet. It's then I get that sinking feeling I call "pintpression".
Maybe this comes from being too much of a Type A personality for my own good, always feeling that I have to accomplish all the things I've set out to do, and to complete them perfectly, but I have a feeling there is more to it than that. You see, I became a mom and then a school teacher before the Internet. I learned from friends and coworkers. I read the best books I could find. I tried to do my jobs to the best of my ability, but the only judge of how well I accomplished these things was me and the circle of people to whom I was responsible, but things are different now.
Today, everyone has an online presence somewhere. We all exist beyond the scope of our individual lives, and so we seem to judge ourselves based on how we are perceived, not just by our family, friends, neighbors, and peers, but how we measure up to the online world. Sure, I just had a great time with my kids, but it wasn't anything worth blogging about. Everybody enjoyed tonight's dinner, but it wasn't pretty enough for Pinterest. Everyone (especially teenagers, who increasingly measure their worth to their peers based on "likes") seems to fall into the habit of judging their worth based on how it compares to what they see online, and that's when we all get "blogxiety" because we will never, ever, ever measure up. We can't.
It's not real. Sure, there are people out their who throw extravagant birthday parties for their kids, there are others who have the skills to professionally decorate their houses, there are others who are great bakers, and others who pack fun lunch boxes, but all of these skills don't exist in the same person. Moreover, the best looking Pinterest pictures may not come from reality at all. Sites like Buzzfeed make a great deal of money by creating clickable content that will expose you to their advertisers. Professional bloggers carefully stage and photograph their pictures in order to present the most appealing content. When we compare ourselves to the online world, we are setting a standard for ourselves that is overwhelming and unrealistic. And in the end, this kind of perfection is not even good for us and and our children.
For example, look at this rocket my Grandson made in preschool. It's adorable huh? Guess what. He didn't make it. He colored the rocket. He tore the paper for the fire. He didn't put the aluminum foil on the toilet paper roll. He didn't cut. He didn't glue. I know this because when I asked him if he made it, he said, "No. My teacher made this rocket." If he had made it, it would not look this cute. The cutting would be sloppy, there would be glue all over, and the tin foil wouldn't have made it on the roll so nicely, but it would have been his, every ugly little bit of it.
Our brains do not grow through perfection, they grow through failure. It is though a willingness to try things and make mistakes while we're at it, that we learn how to make more of ourselves. You can't learn how to cut with scissors unless you're willing to cut poorly first. You can't learn to write unless you write something--no matter how poor it is. The best way to learn to read is by reading a book in which you'll make a few mistakes that you can learn how to fix. The ugly things in life are the things that can be the most beneficial.
Additionally, I've found pintpression and blogxiety can suck the joy right out of my life. Last October I pulled out some Halloween decorations that I'd collected over the years--little trinkets that I loved and made me happy. I wanted to arrange them on my mantle, so I opened Pinterest on my phone to get some inspiration. After looking at a dozen pictures, I looked again at my little collection of tchotchkes. They were ugly. They were mismatched. Some were a bit broken. You could hardly call them elegant or beautiful. I didn't want to use them anymore. I wanted to put them away and get something else that would be more in line with what the Internet told me was beautiful. Then I pulled myself together. This was my house and these ugly little things made me happy, and what else was the point of decorating other than to give me something to look at that made me happy--what did it matter what anyone else thought? So I put them on my mantle, and, guess what? I loved it.
The same is true for children. They don't need elaborately beautiful projects in their life to learn and grow. They need freedom, rich experiences, and a safe environment in which they have permission to make things that are a little bit ugly, a little bit crooked, and not quite right, but which are their creation and no one else's.
Life is more messy and more beautiful than it is usually presented to us. Life is generally warty and dirty. When I was a little girl, my Mom made me an outdoor scavenger hunt every Saturday. It was something I always looked forward to, and I always thought she was so creative doing this great "Pinterest Type" activity. Now, I realize she was probably just trying to find a way to get me and my sister out of the house long enough for her to mop it.
Yes. Pinterest can make me feel overwhelmed, but then I remember that I don't have to do everything I see, and I don't have to do it in the way that I see. I can do things in my own way, on my own time, and I have permission to make a disaster of the whole thing.
My students have permission to make disasters too. I once had a colleague tell me that I should only hang the most perfectly made children's artwork in my hall, because parents would be looking at it. I don't agree with that advice. I celebrate everyone's work, because it is the best they can do, and through every little wrinkle and perfection we are growing together.