I ran into a friend the other day I hadn’t seen since she had her first baby about a year ago. After we exchanged niceties of “How’s the baby doing? Are you sleeping?” and the inevitable “Are you gonna have another?” she pulled out her phone to show me pictures of the baby. Beaming ear to ear, she scrolled through page after page after page, and basically narrated in stunning detail the first year of her baby’s life — all with picture-perfect photographic evidence.
I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t suddenly rushed for time. I wasn’t bored, nor did I think she was oversharing or overly obnoxious for holding me hostage to a personal slideshow of her baby’s first-year milestones. I wasn’t any of the things I thought I would be. I was something else entirely. Something surprising, even to me.
I was downright envious.
No, it wasn’t my aging ovaries (which are now home to a small collection of near-expiration-date eggs) moaning for another baby. It wasn’t the last ticks of my 45-year-old biological clock gasping for air as it ticked toward menopause. And it certainly wasn’t a nostalgic “Oh, how I miss those days,” because honestly, I don’t. (Not sleeping for a decade isn’t something I look back fondly on and think, That was epic!) It was the fact she had a near-perfect evidential record of her baby’s first year in pictures, and I knew I had no such thing.
Last week, I found myself missing my firstborn son who is at college now and waxing nostalgic about his first year on Earth. I grabbed his baby book, and in about three minutes, I was done reliving his entire first year. Twelve months on Earth, yet only about 50 pictures.
Back then, I had an old Kodak that required actual rolls of film, forcing you to be acutely aware of how many pictures you took because you only had 36 chances to really get it right. His first time in the high chair eating solids netted three pictures. My friend’s? She not only had about 150 pictures of her daughter spooning rice cereal into her mouth, but the sheer variety and expressions she managed to capture were just plain awesome.
And don’t get me started on the short little videos of the baby she had taken practically daily. My videos? Well, we managed to videotape Christmas, Halloween, and Easter that first year. The time-consuming and inconvenient hauling out of that old clunky Panasonic camcorder, making sure it was charged, finding space on the Hi8 tape, and then recording my son wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. Nowadays, it’s literally one click away and — voila! — you’re a mom and a documentary filmmaker of infancy. What a gift you’ve been given!
Older moms love giving advice to younger moms. We’ve been down every road and back again, and our wisdom comes with love and insight that we’ve earned, in good ways and bad ways, over the years. It’s for that reason that I no longer say to moms, “It goes by so fast. Enjoy every minute,” because we all know that not every minute is enjoyable. On the contrary, thousands of those minutes suck royally.
Instead, now I say, “You can never have enough pictures and videos. Take them every day! Live in the moment, but also don’t hesitate to document that moment because your memory of such things will fade quickly. But those pictures you took? They are forever.” And forever they truly are. No longer do mothers have to panic at the thought of the house burning down and all the picture albums and videos being lost. We can thank the cloud for that.
Now go fill up your children’s cloud. One day they will thank you for it.