Mike Reynolds: Dad Outside the Lines


An Ode to All the Amazing Pinterest Parents

From a parent who is decidedly not one

Dear Amazing Pinterest Parent,

I can see your broccoli Dr. Seuss tree blowing in your child’s lunchbox. I can see your diced tomato acting as the hair to a Who in the Seussian diorama you’re setting up for your kids to gleefully eat. My kids sees these things too and they tell me how great that lunch looks. I’ll, admit, it is a glorious lunch. And I envy that your kid will eat broccoli, even if it is only because it’s waving like a tree.

Pinterest Parents, right?

With their amazingly sculpted broccoli trees and their bologna sandwiches which are more Picasso looking than they are looking like the crust-cut-off-but-still-extremely-square looking things that I manage to get in a lunchbox for my kids. Or maybe it’s the immaculately thrown birthday party with characters on cakes that look even more real than what we’d see from the first row of a movie theatre. Or Halloween decorations that look far more realistic than the 12 year-old skeleton I have whose eyes would light up if I ever bought new batteries for it. These moms and dads with their meals that look so delicious and healthy and entertaining seem to have a lot of explaining to do.

Many love to criticize these parents. Or if not to criticize them, to hold them up as examples of parents who have way more time than they do.

I choose to admire them. Not to hold them up as better parents than I am (and I don’t think they’d ever claim that) but to think about how happy their kids must be.

I’ve watched Lunchbox Dad put these kinds of meals together for a few years now. And, almost without fail, when he posts an image of one, he gets the old “ugh, I do not have time for this with all I have going on in my life,” comment parents seem automated to post when they see one of these lunches (or a fancy birthday cake or home style magazine calibre nurseries or birthday parties copy and pasted from Pinterest boards onto family room walls).

I get frustrated by the parents who have the instinct to knock down what they’re doing with their kids just because they don’t also do it with their kids. In the parenting world, being tired is the only thing we hold in common, it’s our common currency. Some of us love coffee, others hate it. Some love going for a morning run, others would rather take advantage of the last few minutes of sleep they can get for the day. We’re all tired.

And we hate when someone comes along and shows that they’ve used their time in a different way than we have. And we especially hate it when the way they use their time can be photographed and turned into internet fame. It gives us the impression that the recognition they get means they’re parenting better than we are. Cue the outrage at all the time they must spend ignoring their kids to make these beautiful pieces.

These Pinterest focused parents come along and show us the way they use their time for a few hours of the week and we somehow manage to dream up some alternate universe in which parents are doing nothing but making My Little Pony sandwiches out of cream cheese or making Joy from Inside Out using celery sticks.

But they aren’t. They’re using a few hours a week to do something that makes their kids smile. Just like you do when you make up stores at night with your kids or when you rake up a pile of leaves and let them jump in them for hours on end. That’s you using your time to make your kids smile.

Talk to these people before bashing them and you’ll find out that they have piles of laundry in their house too. That their upstairs bathroom, the one that nobody outside of your family ever really sees anyway, hasn’t been cleaned in a couple of weeks. I happen to know that Lunchbox Dad actually loves the Oakland A’s and that can’t be an easy burden to bear.

You don’t do it to get famous, you do it to make your kids happy. And that’s the perfect end game. They aren’t making lunches to make you look stupid. There’s no hidden message that only kids can read that says “you are a terrible parent who doesn’t do what their kid wants.”

I suspect many of the articles written about the un-Pinterest parent - the ones where you show how bad your lunches look because you were too busy looking after your kid to pretty it up, are written in jest, but they’re still frustrating to watch. Surely as grownups in charge of raising tiny humans we understand that these parents face the same sick kid, kid who doesn’t sleep, kid who doesn’t eat struggles the rest of of face.

Lunchbox Dad is very openly an Oakland Athletics fan. These parents aren’t perfect and they aren’t pretending to be.

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