Grab the Camera

by Liz
Originally Published: 

Some parents, when they see their youngest child covering his ears at the sound of a blaring guitar riff, might just turn down the volume. But me, I grab the camera.

For more than 7 years, I have been perfecting this habit without criticism, but now a little someone has started calling me out on it.

One recent night our wee one, Smiley, was flinging his dinner on the floor and making a spectacular mess of pasta, beans and strawberries. So naturally I reached for the camera. I shot frame after frame (always aiming for the perfect mid-air capture) until finally a voice of reason spoke.

Big sister Doodlebug said, “Um, Mom? Maybe you should stop him from throwing food instead of taking pictures.” Right.

Thank goodness I have someone here to remind me to be a parent.

I often wonder what message I’m sending the kids with my near-constant documenting. Worst case: they grow up believing that the perfect photo-op trumps the actual moment. I’m thinking specifically of the day I forgot to bring my camera to one of Doodlebug’s ballet performances. I grumbled and cursed at myself until she said, “Mama, I guess you will just have to watch me.” Of course.

So I guess it’s about time to question the merits of playing the double role of family historian and parent.

After years of documenting the kids, do I know how to fully live in the moment without thinking about the perfect photograph? Am I taking notes for them or for me (or does it even matter)? Is all this documenting going to come back and bite me in the form of family therapy bills? Will my kids be able to pick my face out of a line-up if there’s not a camera attached to it?

All important questions—for you and your own wrestling-prone conscience. Personally, I’m willing to take the risks because I believe my heart is in the right place. I’m giving them a gift that also happens to fill me up creatively. I am showing them that their lives, their stories, are worth cherishing (the good, the bad, the messy).

And when their memories become full of grown-up worries, I can offer my kids tales of how their childhood appeared from their mother’s eyes. And perhaps if we are lucky, we will all look back and laugh at the fun (and sometimes “fun”) we had learning to be a family.

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