Holidays: social media vs reality

I have just finished putting together a photo album from our recent holiday to Malta. In the hope that one day my son will want to look back at photos from his childhood holidays in a book, rather than try and locate them in a cloud, I have decided to make him a photo book for each of our holidays.

Whilst reminiscing about the week we had in Malta, I also thought about the photos we had put on social media whilst we were away and when we returned. The holiday was with two other families, our “NCT friends”, friends we originally met through our NCT classes but who are now firm friends (not just NCT friends!). We had booked the holiday almost a year before we went, with many people close to us asking if we were doing the right thing, worried that our new friendship may not survive a week abroad with our 3 toddlers. When we booked it, none of us really knew how the week would turn out. We didn’t even really know what it was like to have 2 year olds, so it was hard to imagine at the time what it would be like to take a 2 year abroad – to somewhere new, somewhere hot, sleeping in a different room, sitting on on a plane for hours, eating in restaurants 3 times a day. We also didn’t know how the kids would interact together, we had hopes that they would love playing together all day every day, but we didn’t really know. A few things we did know for certain – we would get more value out of the ice cream cart than the bar, we wouldn’t get the holiday lie ins we had all grown used to, we wouldn’t get to leisurely enjoy our lunch with a few beers sitting in the midday sun, we would go through a lot of factor 50 and seek out shade wherever we were and we wouldn’t read the handful of books that we chose to pack anyway.

We spent a lot of time choosing where to go with simple criteria of – sun and a beach. The plane journey had to be a sensible length because we were only going for a week (and for our general sanity and those who were on the same plane as our 3 toddlers), we had lots of discussions around villa vs hotel and we all had our own opinions of where we wanted to go and where we didn’t want to go. We eventually, after weeks of WhatsApp messages, chose Malta. A 3 hour plane and an all-inclusive family friendly hotel.

The photos attached are ones I picked off social media which show all of our friends and family the ‘edited’ version of our holiday. I put a handful of photos up on Facebook, I shared a lot more with the Grandparents privately, and I have even more stored on my phone (and now in my photo album!). Between the 3 families there were a lot of photos which went on to social media, all showing our beautiful, well-dressed, clean, smiling, happy children having fun on their first holiday together.

I say ‘edited’ because the photos show all the fun we had – all the smiles, giggles, playtime, pool time, disco time, the interesting parts of the day trips and the nap times (when the kids look really cute (and we have the chance to get our cameras out!)) And all of that is true, obviously, as you can see in the photos. And overall we did have a fantastic and fun time, with lots of playing, lots of laughing and (by the end of the week) some pretty well-timed (i.e. all kids at the same time) naps.

But what the photos don’t show is: the tantrums, the screaming, the running away, the refusal to eat at the table, the snatching toys, the hitting, the arguments, the tellings-off, the tears (both adults and children!) or the sheer exhaustion of a week with 3 toddlers. I looked back through my photos to see if I had any of the tantrums, but I don’t. Despite only have one child between every two adults, we simply didn’t have the hands or the inclination to capture those moments. When there is something cute, like the kids holding hands or jumping in the pool, we reach for our phones immediately. When there is a full blown tantrum, or we are running to stop a toddler falling in the pool or escaping through the hotel doors, we don’t think to reach for our phones (luckily!) Automatically we have edited our captured version of the holiday. So then when it comes to sharing those photos, they are also the edited version of the holiday. It’s not just that we don’t think our friends or family want to see those things, or that we want to paint a picture that our holiday was “perfect”, it’s just that we don’t have those photos to share.

Looking back, the holiday was awesome and our photos capture all the fun and laughs we had with the kids. Hiding in amongst those memories are also the memories of the reality that every parent who has travelled abroad with a toddler will know.. it’s pretty tough, there is a lot of organisation, a lot of logistics, a lot of packing and unpacking the changing bags, so many snacks, a lot of tantrums and crying, and some pretty frayed tempers.

But, despite all of that, it was still much more fun than not going on holiday and our photos are a record of the amazing memories we made.

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