I have FOMOMO. And, no, I didn’t mean FOMO. I’m not so old that I’m confused about internet slang. I meant that I have FOMOMO, aka Fear of My Offspring Missing Out, an affliction caused by seeing pictures of very happy kids on Instagram and Facebook and occasionally Twitter (although Twitter is generally a cesspool in which no one ever laughs or smiles).
Whether it’s a picture of an ecstatic family rafting under a waterfall or one of an adorable toddler on a hayride at a pumpkin patch, I see it and wonder if my daughter is missing out and whether I’m helping her live her best life. The guilt and self-doubt overtake me, all because of a selfie of a co-worker and her sons eating “DA BEST ICE CREAM EVAH” with Dave Grohl. I don’t know Dave Grohl, but they do, which translates to my daughter not having one of life’s great experiences (eating ice cream with a rock legend).
To be clear, I’m sincerely happy for the kids who are dancing backstage at Hamilton or canvassing for Beto O’Rourke. Unfortunately those images also sometimes make me wonder if I’m a terrible parent who isn’t squeezing the sweet nectar of life into my child’s mouth. That sounds gross, but I’m pretty sure that I got that image specifically from some mom’s IG who took her kid to an organic juicery in Malibu where he got nectar squoze into his mouth by rock legend Dave Grohl!
I’m generally not a jealous person, so I’m not proud of feeling this way. Teddy Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and whenever I start comparing my life to someone else’s, I actually picture a tiny thief sneaking into my heart and stealing my joy. So why, then, do I hang onto this FOMOMO?
I fully understand that Instagram and Facebook are just highlight montages meant to project one’s best self out to the world. And that’s fine, because what would be the point of showcasing the negative stuff, like posting Boomerangs of tantrums about not getting Fortnite? And if there’s anything that the many Fyre Fest documentaries have taught me, it’s that you can’t believe everything you see on social media. But… here’s the thing: these selfies are real. The videos are legit. Just the other day, I watched an IG story from a friend from high school whose kid was ziplining from treetop to treetop in Costa Rica and I had major FOMOMO, even though my kid hates ziplining six feet off the ground at our local park. And yet it made me realize that she hasn’t had the opportunity to hate ziplining on an international level, and that bothered me.
I rarely fall prey to regular ol’ FOMO because I have made peace with the fact that I’m not going to have every experience and every material thing in the world. If I see my buddy on IG at a taco truck festival, I’m psyched for him – and crave tacos. However, if I see my buddy and his kid at the taco truck festival, the guilt is overwhelming. That’s where my self-examination starts. “Why didn’t I know about the taco festival? Has she ever smiled at me like that taco-eating kid smiles at his dad? DO WE EVEN DO FUN THINGS ANYMORE?!” And then it really spirals downward when I realize that all I did that day in the “fun” category was letting her watch an extra episode of “Ellen’s Game of Games.” Sure, my daughter loves it when Ellen dunks the librarian from Kansas City in the giant vat of spaghetti, but will she end up loving her childhood as much as the kid who went to the taco truck festival?
And that’s what it boils down to. I want my daughter to love her childhood, both now and when she looks back on it later. I loved mine, and I’m old enough now to be very grateful to my parents for providing that for me. So I guess I have a selfish desire for her to one day look back and say “My childhood was amazing, and I’m a well-rounded person on account of the efforts of my super cool parents who took me to me to fun places where I experienced great things.”
But if I’m being honest with myself, I know that credit isn’t something a parent should ask for. You just have to do your best and hope that you make your child’s life fulfilling. And as I flash through my own mental Instagram (which used to be called memories), I’m actually reminded that there are so many fun things my daughter gets to do. We don’t hang with Dave Grohl (yet. There’s still time. ‘Sup, Dave.), but we do and see plenty of great things, we laugh a lot, and she’s surrounded by people who love her.
So when that little thief of joy rears his head, I need to kick him to the curb and focus on continuing to make my daughter’s life as full as I can. We could watch less Game of Games though. It’s kind of a mean show.