Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Say Cheese?

My second favorite thing to view on Facebook is pictures of people's children, especially those kids whom I barely get to see because they live far away.

My first favorite thing to view on Facebook is pictures of people's food.

Lately, I've been getting some slack (albeit loving slack) because I don't post enough pictures of my kids, Big A and Little D on Facebook.  It's true, I don't post a ton of pictures of my children, although I feel I come through for holidays and other events like tooth losing or "eating a giant ball of cotton candy".  Today I went out of my comfort zone and posted a picture of Big A at the bus stop with his homies. 

When I'm chided by friends to post more photos (generally by those whose kids are grown, live far away or those who don't have kids) I feel warmed that people care enough about my offspring that they want to keep up with their progress.  And yet, I'm probably not going to increase the volume of my photo posts. A few times a month is all I can manage.

Some parents are wonderful photographers.  They have kickass cameras and they are amazing at capturing the moment.  Two moms I know, Heidi and Catherine, were such a amazing amateur photographers that they are now professional photographers. My friend Beth is a fantastic amateur photographer, and some of my favorite beach pictures have been taken by her, when I had no idea I was being photographed. In the below picture I was pregnant with my daughter while my 3 year old son had fallen asleep trapping me in a beach chair for two hours. This photo is incredibly meaningful to me.

But I don't possess the same flair for capturing the moment when it comes to my own kids.  Here's why.

My phone is my camera.   I try very hard not to have my phone with me at all times, but particularly when I'm spending time with my children. (This HAS NOTHING to do with the fact that two previous phones were destroyed due to Little D drooling on them and my insurance was cancelled.  Nothing whatsoever.) My phone, with it's bells, whistles, texts and connection to Upworthy is too irresistible of a distraction.  This is why I miss calls all the time and I'm even worse at checking my voicemails.  So my phone is never close enough to capture much of anything in a timely fashion.

I used to really try to scramble for my phone and snap up something cute the kids were doing. I would rush around for my phone, zip back to my kids and yell "Okay, hold that pose!  Put your arm around her again!  Smooch her head like you were before!"  And then sh*t got weird like those pictures of naked babies arranged in flower pots or rugs...cute...but staged.

It was around then that I noticed that I am not someone who is able to capture the moment and still be present to what is happening.  When I'm stopping to document something happening with my kids, I am not as good at remembering it.  My memory seems to give up, kick back and eat a bag of Cheetos, it would seem, replacing my memory of that moment (and its accompanying emotions) with whatever picture came up on my phone. 

I figured out that I was forsaking actual memories for documentation.  And it's not that I take NO pictures of my children, because I certainly do. It's just that I take LESS pictures of my children these days because, ironically, I seem to bear better witness to their photo-finish-worthy hijinx or precious moments when I don't remove myself from the situation and get behind the camera.  Strange, but true. My sister Chrissy doesn't post too many pictures either...but when she does they are usually awesome so everybody generally pays attention, wildly slapping the "Like" button like a bunch of sugar-crazed children at Yestercades.

When a woman from my writers' group, Barbara, wrote an exceptional piece about this topic a few months ago, ( I wish you would share it on FB!) I found myself nodding along and fighting the urge to yell "Amen!"  She wrote that if you're taking TOO many photographs or videos from OUTSIDE the moment, there's really no way for you to be inside the moment, really experiencing it.  It's because of this that I often offer to take over the camera when I'm at a friend's child's birthday party.  The mom gets to experience the celebration for her child and be IN THE PICTURES rather than behind the camera and out of the action like we all usually are. 

It would be ideal if my husband was a whiz with a camera or loved to take pictures but he is much, much worse than I am about taking pictures.  When Big A went off the kindergarten this past Fall, my husband shocked the hell out of me (and probably himself) by capturing this completely candid photo where both my son and I were unaware that we were being photographed.  I was walking Big A to the bus stop for the first time.  While  I'm moved, touched and inspired by the fact that this photograph exists, I'm glad to know that I didn't have to drop my son's hand and remove myself from our walk to take a picture, hence ruining the moment.

Since I make a conscious effort not to take too many pictures, when friends or family members capture something beautiful on film, it is all the more poignant to me. Because a gifted photographer I am not. When I remark "Say Cheese!" rather than whipping out a camera, I'm more likely to be grabbing a box of crackers and calling everyone in for a snack.

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