When I had my first son about 13 years ago, I did not own a cell phone. Most people didn’t at that time, as a matter of fact. I was a graduate student, and life operated by phone and email and in person, of course.
I captured photos of my FirstBorn with a digital camera. I would download the pictures to my desktop computer and struggle to figure out ways to save, view and share these photos with loved ones. We did not own a video camera, but our digital camera had limited video capabilities and that was fine.
Over the course of my sons’ early lives, smartphones became more and more sophisticated and we now live in a world with high quality cameras and video capability in the pockets of most individuals between the ages of 5 and 95. Phones are for everyone and cameras are a thing of the past. Were it not for the photography club my sons have been in for 5 years, they would never see cameras.
Recording video is so easy, people film anything and everything. I’ve seen this especially as a mom. Everything children do seems to be a photo/video op.
I, on the other hand, record basically nothing. While I have videos of some of my son’s toddler years here and there, by and large, I simply never got into videotaping.
I noticed quite early in the technology revolution how distracted technology made me. Already an anxious, distracted person with a touch of ADD, adding cameras and chargers and wires to my life stressed me out. Transferring photos made me cry, since I used an Android but had an Apple computer, so it was really hit and miss as to what would transfer when and how and where I would find it on my computer.
In addition, maintaining focus on my children while also trying to document their lives was frustrating. Because I tend to constantly compare myself to other parents, I felt like I wasn’t doing it right anyway; seeing parents documenting every move their kids made had me imagining that they were better parents and the whole thing was making me nuts.
Sometimes if I miss one of my kids’ special presentations in our homeschool community and my ex remembers to tape it, I love that. But by and large, he and I both refrain.
Experiencing my children’s events is special and beautiful. Once I become an observer through a lens, though, it shifts my focus and my attention. Holding something up, monitoring the angle, and confirming that the video is saved all take me away from actually experiencing the event.
Not recording encourages me to truly be present. I have nothing else to tend to. Nothing else to think about but what is happening in the moment. It’s so rare that that is ever true, since my life is about being constantly on my phone.
I know I won’t be going back to this later; I need to experience it right now. Do I sometimes wish I was recording? Of course. My sons recently performed together as Dromio and Antipholus in “The Comedy of Errors” in their “Much Ado About Shakespeare” class. They had worked so hard all semester and they had parts which had both of them on stage together being silly and amazing a LOT.
One moment came in the play where Dromio and Antipholus grab each other, turn their faces to the audience pressed close to one another, and they scream in mock terror. Two sets of blue eyes stared out at a room full of friends and family. Two sandy blond heads with different cowlicks and patterns but the same exact shade of blond blended together. Two peasant blouses embraced. Two sets of the rosiest cheeks I’ve seen since walking the halls of the Renaissance wing of any museum lit up the stage. Two mouths – rosebud lips and teeth making their way into the world – grinned and screamed as the audience laughed.
I wish I could save that moment forever. And the illusion of video–and even photos to some extent–is that we think we can hold onto those moments. And in a way, we can. We can watch them and revisit in our minds how it felt to see that. But nothing–and I literally mean nothing–can capture the joy and surprise and pride I felt the first time my heart bloomed when those boys grabbed each other and screamed out at the audience the way they did.
That moment was here and now it is gone. Like my sons’ infancy. Like their nursing-to-sleep years. Like their needing me to bathe them. And their needing me to carry them.
All of those moments exist briefly, like the cherry blossom. We wait for it to bloom and it does, but only briefly. I am working on holding onto feelings without the visuals. It’s an experiment I may regret, but I know that I don’t regret for a second the feelings I have when I truly experience my kids in the present. Even if it is only for a second.