What you DON'T see in our idyllic family vacation photos
Annie Reneau

A few years ago, our family took a two-week road trip through the Pacific Northwest. We visited six state parks and four national parks, camped under the Redwoods, frolicked in the Pacific Ocean, hiked through breathtaking scenery, and ate and laughed with friends and family who traveled with us.

Perusing the photos from that vacation (or "family trip" to be more accurate, per M. Blazoned's brilliant analysis), I see gorgeous vistas and genuine smiles, children playing and families picnicking, magical moments of beauty and bliss.

But photos never show the whole picture, do they? This is a problem in the social media age as studies suggest that constantly seeing people's "highlight reels" on Facebook and Instagram can lead to sadness and/or jealousy. Apparently, scrolling through photos of our friends basking on beautiful beaches while we're waging whining wars with our wee ones can make us feel all icky inside. Go figure.


Since I don't like the thought of people feeling icky inside, I thought it might be helpful to share what you don't see in our fun family vacation photos:

THE "KIDS HAVING A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: A group of happy kids peering down the empty center of an ancient Redwood tree. So cool.

What you don't see: One of my kids stomping away angrily because I wouldn't let her slide down the hollow after her much older friend (and Boy Scout) did it first and found it to be too treacherous. (The slope was much longer and steeper than it looks in the photo.)

THE "TOTALLY NATURAL, CANDID KID PORTRAIT" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: My sweet, happy boy on the banks of a swimming hole in Yosemite National Park gazing lovingly at his mother.

What you don't see: Me carrying this unhappy boy away from said swimming hole while he threw an enormous fit because it was time to go and we couldn't find the "perfect hiking stick" he had found on the way there. Someone actually slow clapped as I escorted him away. Good times.

THE "FAMILY WALKING TOWARDS THE GORGEOUS SCENERY" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: Our big group of family and friends walking into the woods for a lovely picnic lunch under the amazing granite formations of Yosemite.

What you don't see: We had just driven three cars full of hungry, cranky children in circles for 20 minutes trying to find a parking space near the visitor's center, to no avail. (Fair warning: Yosemite Valley is NUTS in August.)

THE "KID ENJOYING THE WONDERS OF NATURE" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: Our little nature lover demonstrating how big the sugar pine cone she found was at our campsite.

What you don't see: The teeth-gnashing negotiations that ensued when I said she couldn't bring the sap-dripping pine cone home with her because it was unbelievably sticky and also against park rules. Taking this photo was her consolation prize.

THE "ALL-AMERICAN ICE CREAM CONE" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: My youngest enjoying his hard-earned ice cream after a day of hiking at Yosemite.

What you don't see: The complaints that ensued after he finished his ice cream because I would not also buy him Cheetos. GAH.

THE "KIDS ALL SITTING IN ONE SPOT TOGETHER, SMILING AND CALM" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: Six happy kids in a hammock at the campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

What you don't see: Four not-so-happy parents telling kids for the 127th time to stop throwing dirt, stop yelling and screeching (sorry, fellow campers), and stop playing in the fire.

THE "BREATHTAKING VISTA ON A BEAUTIFUL DAY" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: A gorgeous view of Crater Lake's incomparably blue waters from the Phantom Ship overlook.

What you don't see: Me spending the entire 1/2-mile hike to this overlook dealing with a six-year-old melting down because I wouldn't let him get a Swiss Army knife. (Man, traveling can be tough on the six-year-olds.)

THE "KIDS ACTIVELY PLAYING IN NATURE" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: Kids enjoying beautiful Plaikni Falls in Crater Lake National Park.

What you don't see: Every one of those kids revolting over the 1.3 mile hike to get there because (and I quote) "We've already seeeeen enough beautiful sceneryyyyy!" Wah. Wah. Wah.

THE "SIBLINGS HUGGING WHILE GAZING AT THE SUNSET" SHOT www.motherhoodandmore.com

What you see: Our three loving children bonding over the beautiful sunset view at Crater Lake.

What you don't see: Me working through one child's emotional crisis in the car ten minutes before this moment, and two children fighting so badly ten minutes after this moment that I made them sit in the car together at the campground until they hugged and made up.

We love to travel as a family and our kids are generally great, but they're kids. And parenting doesn't stop when you're on vacation, alas.

It's not that these photos don't show an accurate picture of reality. These were real, honest, lovely snippets in time filled with joy and wonder. But it's also reality that they were bookended with not-so-lovely moments. Such is life. Especially with children, God love 'em.

So don't be jealous of people's idyllic family vacation photos. I guarantee their trips have as much normal family drama as yours do, even if their photos don't show it.

And why would they? We take pictures because we want to remember the good times, not the annoying ones. And over time, the whining, arguing, and complaining that come with traveling all melt away, and what we're left with is the beautiful memories we've chosen to capture and hold onto.

We just need to remember that when we're looking at someone else's highlight reel, we're definitely not seeing the whole picture.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."