If my parents had owned smartphones in the 1980s, I’d probably have more photos of my childhood – but as it stands, there are about 37 of them (including school pictures). Sometimes I feel a little sorry for myself, but lately, I’ve been feeling more sorry for my own children.
I wish I were kidding about this, but my wife and I have over 8,100 pictures in our digital library, and I’m guessing 75% of them are pictures of our daughters, neither of whom has even turned four yet. If you do the math, that means that by the time my oldest daughter is 12, the girls will have around 24,000 photos of themselves to look through (better get started now, girls!).
I’m not saying it’s inherently bad for me to own a smartphone that can digitally record every halfway-adorable moment in my daughter’s lives – I’m just saying it’s odd to actually be recording most of those halfway-adorable moments.
I have no doubt that there are consequences for my daughters. For one, their first memories will probably be of the back of my phone – not to mention the fact that both of them probably think their nickname is “Cheese.” Worst of all, I’m indirectly encouraging them to grow up believing everything they do is interesting.
But there are consequences for me too. Whenever we’re on a walk, on a trip, or at the park, I often struggle to simply enjoy being with them, because I’m constantly detecting another photogenic moment. And before I know it, I’m more aware of what I see on the screen of my phone than I am of them – their lives are becoming a perpetual photo shoot, and I’m becoming a paparazzo.
It seems like every week I notice something different about my daughters – their faces look a little more mature, their pronunciation is a little clearer, they’re making new mental connections. I can’t keep up with all of it. And on top of that, I’m constantly being reminded by other parents that my kids are “going to grow up before I know it.”
It feels like their childhoods are slipping through my fingers, and one of the only ways I get a sense of control over that is to record as many moments as possible. But lately, the irony has been hitting me: priceless moments are slipping through my fingers because I’m trying so hard to hold onto them.
Like it or not, I can’t bottle up eternity in my cell phone.
As I wrote this post, I kept noticing my daughters, who were lying next to each other on the floor of our living room. They were both holding their favorite stuffed animals and shaking them around to the beat of some music that was playing. As usual, my first instinct was to grab my phone and make a video of it.
Instead, I just watched them, took a picture in my mind, and enjoyed seeing them in person.