I was looking up at my 5-year-old boy as we lay in his twin-size bed. He was propped up on one elbow, telling me a story from Kindergarten — so animated, so happy. It was late, later than he should be awake, and the hallway light cast a dramatic shadow on his face.
Suddenly I saw him in HD. I saw the perfect shot; I even captioned the photo in my mind and imagined sharing it on Instagram and Facebook. It would be beautiful.
“Wait! Don’t Move!” I wanted to say before jumping out of the bed and grabbing my camera.
But I didn’t. I stopped the thought — it wouldn’t be beautiful, it is beautiful, I realized. Even if no one saw it but me.
Come back to this moment, I thought to myself. This moment is just for me.
And it was.
“Okay, the show will start in ONE MINUTE!” he bellowed in the backyard.
My son and his 8-year-old friend had been practicing their “moves” for a solid 15 minutes (“Don’t watch us!” they breathlessly hollered through wide smiles). I was about to watch a circus act, I was told. It was going to be “epic,” I heard.
I saw one folding chair set up for the one audience member they expected. I sat down and watched my boy walk to a patch of dirt in the center of the grass. He talked into a fist held up to his mouth and I smiled, remembering all of the pretend microphones and “epic” shows my friends and I put on as kids.
I reached in my pocket for my phone, but I left it inside. My initial reaction was, “Crap. I need to record this,” and I almost stopped the show.
No, stay right here, right in this moment, I thought to myself as the show began. This moment is just for me.
And it was.
There was only one chair on the lawn — they anticipated one set of eyes watching, not thousands of friends and family and followers (most complete strangers). They don’t see value in “likes,” not yet at least. But there’s value in my smile, my attention, my presence.
They practiced their routine so that I could watch them, not watch them through a screen, through a filter, through an expectation of watching it LATER. They want to see my face as I watch, not a device held up between us.
That show was just for me, and I loved every minute until their final bow.
There are so many moments — tiny moments, ordinary moments — I’m grateful to have captured. I have an iPhone collection of frozen memories, and I don’t regret a single one. I’ll never kiss his 3-year-old cheeks again, never rock his 2-year-old body to sleep. I’ll never hear his toddler accent whispering “I yove you” in my ear, not ever again. But I can press play on a video and remember him. I can see a familiar spark, a recognizable personality, beaming through even the tiniest version of himself, and I feel overwhelmed with love. I’m grateful for the memories.
And yet …
Sometimes I think our need to capture each and every moment is an obsessive grasp for permanence in an impermanent world.
While it’s nice to have a highlight reel of our lives — I’m sure it will be lovely for our children, too — so often we’re watching our lives through a screen instead of giving our full attention. (This reaches far beyond the realm of parenting. We spend hard-earned money on concert tickets, only to watch the show through a tiny screen that says “record.” Our friends walk down wedding aisles, and we get teary at the image on our phones, held up over our faces.)
On the one hand, it’s incredible to have these crisp, beautiful photos to record and share our stories, our lives. Letting people in on our intimate moments — whether on Instagram or a similar social sharing site — is a way to connect, to feel less alone. There’s value there.
But on the other hand, all that really matters is our experience in each moment. Are we diluting our lives with all of this mental and physical disconnection behind a screen? How often do we stage scenes and hold poses, as opposed to simply enjoying reality? Why are we living our lives with the intention of remembering and sharing our lives?
It’s a balance, like anything in life. Sometimes I have trouble finding stable ground, and I doubt I’m the only one.
“Mommy, take a video of my song!”
And so I do.
After he’s done, we watch the video back and laugh together.
“Can I send this to Grandma and Aunt Nikki?” I ask him. (Now that he’s 5, I feel like he deserves a say in what I do or don’t share. Even the smallest people deserve to have some boundary foundations in place, especially around their privacy. The hypocrisy in me writing about this now, on the Internet, and posting our photos doesn’t escape me; it only illustrates the struggle.)
“No,” he quickly says. “That’s just for us.”
I put down my phone and soak him up, exactly as he is in that moment.More On