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Bunmi Laditan: Why immigrant childhoods like mine were not made for Instagram

My early years were special because of the basic snapshots of life that are too boring for social media.
The author, in an Insta-ready pose, didn't have such a picture-perfect childhood.
The author, in an Insta-ready pose, didn't have such a picture-perfect childhood.Courtesy Bunmi Laditan

You can’t scroll through Instagram for more than 30 seconds without feeling as if you’re somehow doing life wrong. Are my children supposed to be wearing all beige Alpaca woolen outfits? Are living rooms meant to be minimalistic with only a vintage rug and perhaps a vase of fresh tulips as the decor?

Are all meals supposed to be fermented, served on designer plates, and heavy on the vegetables picked (with joy) from my personal garden? 

I’ve been a mother for 16 years and have watched the impossible standard of living portrayed online ebb and flow from the Pinterest-perfect birthday parties to the Montessori toddler kitchens with running tap water that are presented as developmental must-haves.

Instagram is beautiful and I am inspired and entertained daily by its photos and videos, but the pervasive vein of curated parenting perfection is one I hope all parents ingest with a grain of local, ethical Himalayan sea salt.

Understanding that the perfection we so often see on Instagram is as mapped and planned as a magazine spread, is key to indulging in without becoming sick with worry that one’s normal is not good enough.

I grew up in an immigrant family. My parents came from Nigeria to California when my oldest brother was around 3 years old. As a child who watched my parents struggle in a new country and often went without the things I saw my friends have, I was no stranger to living with comparison.

Laditan's parents were immigrants from Nigeria.
Laditan's parents were immigrants from Nigeria. Courtesy Bunmi Laditan

What made my early years special, however, were the normal, basic, snapshots of life that would have been considered too boring to stand out on social media.

Like most of us from our generation, I spent summers outside. I picked wild blackberries from the bushes behind my home and apartment complex and spent hours riding my bike around and around the block. I played with my stuffed animals that came from Goodwill; giving them names, occupations, personalities, and organizing tea parties. 

I relished the library and would scoop up as many books as were allowed every week. Once we could afford video games, I played Mario Brothers, always having to be Luigi, with my brothers. We built blanket and pillow forts. My siblings and I created and acted out weird little skits that, looking back, made very little sense at all but that my parents would still diligently record on an old VHS camcorder while we fought over who stole whose line.

Our home wasn’t designed in a way that would make anyone press like. No one would leave glowing comments on our mismatched outfits and secondhand toys. We didn’t take any vacations worth making reels over. In fact, my parents would often sneak us into hotel pools so we could swim when our community pool was closed. If anything, our family would have gone viral for getting kicked out once management noticed we weren’t paying guests.

Laditan's kids' childhood isn't Insta-perfect either, but it's perfect for them.
Laditan's kids' childhood isn't Insta-perfect either, but it's perfect for them.Courtesy Bunmi Laditan

I didn’t have an Instagram-worthy childhood. The days were off-trend and colors: uncoordinated. The meals of steamed and pounded yams, rice, dried fish, and red stews were anything but aspirational. But we were fed and had the simple fun of loved children.

I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying the beauty social media has to offer, but urge you to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with the everyday, normal, messy, unremarkable, days in which your family finds peace, love and peanut butter sandwiches.

Bunmi Laditan is an award-winning, Webby-nominated writer from California who lives in Quebec, Canada, with her family. Bunmi is best known for the viral satirical Twitter account, Honest Toddler, and she has appeared in the New York Times, Parenting, and on TODAY. Her new book is HELP ME GOD, I’M A PARENT.