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Joy and Nostalgia

July 10, 2010
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bunnykins

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I love, love, love the photos accompanying the article All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting in New York Magazine.  I read this yesterday after a friend linked to it on Facebook.  It made so much sense to me.  I was very unhappy and could not forgive myself the mistake of becoming a parent until 2007 when I began blogging and reading blogs written by mothers who focused on the joy and nostalgia of parenting.  I realized I could trick myself into enjoying it; it really is a mind game.  By taking photos just so, I could invest in my own well-being and ensure that when I looked back I would have happy memories.

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bunnykins

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I admit that I am a parent who copes by manufacturing happiness when there is such a void of “real” happiness.  I would rather drug myself with nostalgic photos than in other ways.  As I look through blog posts in my reader each day, I admire the kind of photo that looks set up to inspire feelings of joy and nostalgia.  To me, a “fake” photo doesn’t hold any less value.  What it says about the photographer is that she is living with intent and making choices about where to focus.

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bunnykins

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bunnykins

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My mom saved these “bunnykins” mugs and bowls and plates from when my brother and I were babies.  One plate was broken decades ago and I broke a bowl when we moved last summer, but I still have two mugs and one plate.  Before I really took the time to look at them I only knew they had scenes of a bunny family.  I probably would have assumed they were joyful.

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bunnykins

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But when I decided to photograph them, I saw how angry the bunnies look.  The bunnies are doing things that a family is supposed to enjoy: kite flying, fishing in the ocean, eating ice cream while watching a puppet show on the shore.  But these family activities are stressful because the kites are getting tangled in the tree.  The father bunny is smoking a pipe and glaring at his children.  A crab is biting a brother bunny’s foot.  A brother bunny wants to whack his sister with a shovel in one scene and has stolen her ice cream cone in another.

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bunnykins

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bunnykins

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I feel connected to this bunny family because I’m constantly pissed off when we go on outings.  Sometimes we get along well until it’s time to get back into the minivan and then the whining of “it’s too hot!!!” starts and I yell about the logic of a closed car baking in the sun, and of course it’s hot, and the air conditioning will cool it off soon enough, and just get over it and sit down so I can buckle you in, goddammit.  We all have tears in our eyes because we want so badly to treat each other with respect and stop reacting to each other’s anger.  The next day we look through the photos and are amazed to see what a good time we had.  Then I sit down at the computer to blog about it and ironically end up screaming at them for breaking my concentration.

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11 Comments
  1. July 10, 2010 7:16 pm

    I am like you, I cannot stand our family outings. But, then I remember them fondly after time / distance is between us and the trip. Thus the longing to return to Disney World, even though when we went it was the worst car trip on earth. If Disney is the happiest place on earth, why are there so many crying children?

  2. July 11, 2010 8:45 am

    Oh sweet lady! You’re doing a fine job, don’t be too hard on yourself 🙂

  3. July 11, 2010 10:10 am

    I love it, and completely agree. 🙂

  4. July 12, 2010 9:22 pm

    You have a real knack for expressing your feelings. Since I’m not a parent, I really appreciate your honesty about the joys/difficulties of raising a family.

    Triple-love the bunny dishes!!

  5. Lofter permalink
    July 18, 2010 9:40 am

    As Thornton Wilder wrote, “Life is an unbroken succession of false situations.” I can surely relate to exactly what you have written and, as always, your words are laden with truth! I suppose I’ve always been curious why most things aren’t as good as I remember them to be. I’ve come to accept that our minds gradually weed out most of the ‘bad’ memories in favor of those that make us happy. The same would apply to our photographs. Like me, I’m betting that you take far more photos than you save, simply hitting the delete key on the ones that don’t live up to the standard of the moment. If only all of life were so simple.
    And, by the way, I love the Bunnykins! :->

    “Cherish all your happy moments: they make a fine cushion for old age.” – Christopher Morley

  6. July 19, 2010 11:49 pm

    LOVE this post and thank you for transparency! I can so relate! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  7. July 20, 2010 11:17 pm

    I look back on my childhood, remember my father’s patience, and just marvel.

  8. Melanie permalink
    July 25, 2010 12:48 am

    @saintseester: We live 8 miles from Disneyland and go frequently (almost weekly). And when my son whines, we always tell him, “This is the Happiest Goddamn Place on Earth, so START ACTING LIKE IT!”

    @FW: I really *really* identified with this post. Thanks a bunch.

  9. July 26, 2010 3:52 pm

    Oh, ditto, sister. Ditto.

    The bunnykins bowl my brother used–our only piece, I believe–was so-well worn that only the running bunnies around the edges remain. There’s some metaphor in there, probably.

  10. refincher permalink
    August 9, 2010 6:03 pm

    This post reminded me of an old one of mine ( one that I needed to revisit today!) so I’m sending you the link. http://refincher.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/putting-our-best-foot-forward/
    I love what you said about living intentionally. Hugs to you!

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