I don't take a lot of photos or videos of my kids. It rarely occurs to me to do so, and usually that's only because my kids have asked me to take a picture, and then I grudgingly do so. It isn't because I don't love my kids and don't want to document their existence, and it's not because I'm completely unsentimental. It's just that nine times out of ten, taking videos and photos of your kids is a complete waste of time.
There's a joke my husband and I make when we see parents holding their iPhones above their heads, recording every moment of the kindergarten concert. It goes something like: “Hey honey, what do you want to watch tonight? There's the new season of House of Cards, or that movie Birdman is supposed to be really good. Wait – what about Billy's first-grade musical from 2005? That would go perfectly with the low expectations for joy that I have in my life.”
It's like when people record the fourth of July fireworks or the St. Patrick's day parade – when the hell do they think they are going to sit down and watch that again? It seems like most of the time people record events as a statement to themselves and others that this something important that they want to remember. But not everything needs to be put on record. Some things are better off remembered in your mind than on your camera phone.
When my kids were babies, I took a lot of pictures because they were changing all the time. Every day something new was happening or they were doing something for the first time: their first smile, their first time at the park, the first time they wore a hat (see, I said I wasn't unsentimental). But now that they're seven, I save photos for things like the first day of school and the day they learned how to ride bikes. Other than that, there isn't much pointing and shooting going on.
Some argue that photos and videos are important because your kid's childhood goes so quickly. I think that photos and videos are unimportant for the same reason. I want to live every second of those moments while they're happening. I don't want to spend that time trying to get my kid to "freeze" while I get my camera to focus. I don't want to take us out of the moment by saying wait, let's capture this so that we can enjoy it later. There's a saying that goes, “Life is what happens while you're making plans.” Well, parenting is what happens while you're trying to hit the record button.
Taking a photo or recording a video is way of giving a moment an IOU. It's telling myself that I don't need to try to devote this entire moment to memory. I don't have to memorize the colors, feelings, or sounds of that day. I can relax because I'll have the photo to remind myself later and for the rest of my life. Why bother doing that for our fifth visit to the aquarium? Or for every second of their preschool graduation? When I go through my photos and videos later in my life, as we all assume we will, I want those big events to fill my heart with pride and the special small moments to take my breath away. I want to open up my photos excited because I know that the ones that are there are there for a reason.
I have no illusions that my children and their children and their children's children will want to look at photos of my kids attending a long-forgotten friend's birthday party, or sitting on the couch watching television. That is, unless they are watching television in their rain boots and underwear, and are wearing their pants as hats.
Now that is a moment I'd want to remember.
(photo: Getty Images)