I take SO. Many. Pictures. of my child every day. And videos. Oh my goodness, the videos. I can’t help it! I think (almost) everything she does is cute! I know, I know; typical first-time-parent-speak. We all think our kids do marvelously adorable things that are far cuter than what anyone else’s kid does. Guilty!
But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this phenomenon of trying to capture all the cute or memorable moments. I’m the fifth child in my family, and as such, there are a few pictures of me in the days after I was born, a handful of toddler pictures (most of which are from a single day in which my older sisters had been given disposable cameras—you know, the kind with film!), and then suddenly I’m eight, I’m twelve, I’m eighteen.
Then there’s my child born into this digital age—my first child, mind you—whose picture is taken about a dozen times per day. Often there are six or more of roughly the same shot because she was in the middle of doing something brilliant, and I wanted desperately to capture it just so.
Most of these pictures are texted to my husband, my family, my husband’s family, many end up in this blog, some (increasingly fewer as she gets older) are shared on Facebook, and a select few that I have something (that I think is) profound to say about are shared on Instagram.
When my daughter was just a few months old, I think I actually cried at the realization that, “I probably won’t remember this moment.” I can’t remember now what the moment that triggered that thought even was. And that’s exactly what I was sad about! It dawned on me—and it sounds silly to put this in words—that I cannot possibly memorize every second of my child’s existence. I will forget things. There will be moments of gazing at her while she’s sleeping in my arms, of laughing at her making this silly face where she scrunches up her nose and fake-laughs through her nose, of watching her play with her toys in her car seat through the baby mirror, that very soon, I will not remember. And so I take pictures. And videos. Tons and tons of pictures and videos. I want to capture this amazing season of life where every experience is new and fascinating to her, every stage in motherhood is new to me, and I have the privilege of not only witnessing her grow up but actually helping her do it, too. I want to be able to remember more than my brain is capable of holding onto.
And yet, many times when I reach for my phone to snag a picture, I’m reminded of a line from an article I read a few months ago about millennials as parents. The author said something like, “Our children will grow up believing that experiences are things to be photographed and shared,” (I’m quoting from memory here, don’t hate me if I didn’t get it quite right).
When I read that, I was initially repulsed by the truth of it. I thought, “I want my children to think experiences are something to be experienced!” And while I still think that, I also wonder… Can’t it be both? Can’t experiences be memorialized in digital form while being experienced? Will I, and will my children, relish each moment as fully if I know I can watch a video of it again later? Or will we be able to enjoy memories more deeply through revisiting them verbatim rather than letting them gradually fade and get jumbled? Might I actually miss out on savoring these days because I’m lost behind my camera phone? Or am I creating an important log of our lives in these early days of child-rearing that we can look back on decades from now and be refreshed by its sweetness?
I think it’s both. I’ll admit that sometimes I need to put my phone down and just watch my baby girl learn to wave without trying to send it to Grandma and Grandpa across the airwaves. And I believe someday Ella will read my blog and be touched that I recorded so much of her babyhood. I think she’ll be excited to share it with her children. Maybe someday when she’s a mom I’ll share some of my Instagram posts with her of my hard days as a new mom so that she knows she’s not alone in how she’s feeling, that I’ve stood where she’s standing (if Instagram is still accessible???).
So here’s to trying to find balance. As I heard in a podcast by Jamie Ivey earlier today, we have no idea how social media and this technology boom will change our society. No one can teach us how to handle it because no one has had all of these things before. But I can try to be wise in my use of my gadgets. I can do my best to find some sort of middle ground between making moments unforgettable through photos and simply being present in those moments knowing I’ll likely forget them.