Parenting Perspectives: Being present more important than capturing past

Parenting Perspectives

Ever since I was young, I’ve had high aspirations for various forms of keeping my memories.

Perfectly laid-out scrapbooks, cute collages on the wall, memory books filled with signatures and paraphernalia saved over the years.

I would start out strong, not just saving the pictures and mementos in boxes, but actually taking the time to lay it out, write captions and dates, and organize the trinkets.

Of course, most of these started projects would get a little overzealous in the beginning. You see, I am great at coming up with the vision, organizing all the parts we’ll need to achieve that vision, but actually taking those pieces and putting them to work? My enthusiasm stalls out.

And so it is with memory keeping. I have totes full from high school of my photos, half-started scrapbooks, and oodles of stationery, stamps and oh-so-cute adornments to create my vision for the perfectly kept nostalgia.

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Fast-forward to marriage and three kids, and you can probably see where this is leading. A part of me wishes I could say that parenthood has turned me into a highly efficient baby-book keeper, but it has not. Like most parents (i.e., moms), I started off pretty strong with my first son, documenting the weekly and monthly milestones. I know someday he’ll definitely want to look back and remember when he had his first bowel movement at home. Precious memories.

With my second, I came to realize that just because there was a category for it in the book, doesn’t mean it needs to be filled out. Annual updates on favorite songs, books and friends are fine, but monthly seems a bit excessive.

When my third was coming along, I was proud of myself for going back through the first two books and updating them with pictures and memories. I took the time to scan through all our photos and print the appropriate ones to fill the “first haircut” and “first bath” spaces.

But that is the clincher: in order to cut and paste the photos, you first have to take them.

And this is where I have continued to go downhill. While I’ve never minded taking or being in photos, I’m also not the one who can always be counted on to bring her camera and call for a group photo at every outing. (We all have that friend. I’m grateful for those friends.)

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More people in the family means less attention given to shooting pictures. I honestly just don’t think about it. My husband and I have basic smartphones, so we’re not keen on keeping them with us at all times and snapping Instas.

I’ve caught grief for this at my children’s events.

“Nicole, where’s your camera?!”

“At home,” I say, as I sheepishly head to the bathroom to give myself 30 lashes. In the rush to actually be at the event on time, with everyone wearing appropriate clothing and having a semblance of a clean face, grabbing a camera wasn’t top on my list.

And when I DO remember the camera, I can’t say I want to pull it out. I’ve come to realize this about myself. I would rather enjoy the moment, fully, than worry about taking a photo. A photo that I then have to upload to my computer, sift through the 237 versions for the best shot, print and organize into a photo book.

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I know there are so many incredible advances in technology that make it easy to preserve our memories. Smartphone cameras, apps, click-and-print memory books. I appreciate each of those, and I embrace them to the extent that feels natural to me. I wish more of it felt natural to me. But the reality is, it doesn’t.

When I am laughing with my daughter on the floor as she pretends I’m her baby, watching the joy unfold on my middle son’s face as I “fly” him on my feet, or feeling the comfort of my oldest son’s arms around me at bedtime, sometimes my mind will think, “I should take a picture of this.”

Then I think, “No, that would ruin the moment,” and I relax into it. I remind myself that it’s not the future that matters, or looking back at the past through memorabilia. It’s the present, this very moment, which holds everything. Being in the moment now is more important than a picture of it later.

If I can show my children how to be present, how to say a prayer of thanks for the moment they’re in, and how to get as much joy out of it as possible, then I hope that’s something they’ll always remember about me.

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It’s been an idyllic summertime experience. It has brought me joy and even made me love my children more, to see them running and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of childhood. When I see the viral posts saying how we need to “give our kids a 1970′s summer” again, I just shake my head. Regardless of the decade, everything we need for a perfect summer is within us.

In a book I was recently reading, the author referenced a Facebook post that was going around a few years ago. In it, Facebook users were prompted to share a list of (somewhat random) things about themselves. Things their closest online friends might not know about them, but maybe should.

The author used it as an opportunity to pull back the facade on her life and be vulnerable with experiences from her past, feelings in her present, and fears of her future that most people didn’t realize about her. It resonated with all who read it, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

It occurred to me that I could make a list for my children. 15 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Me.

Kids are kids, and adults in a community should be looking out for each other, not just looking out for Number One.

Instead, we don’t know our neighbors, they don’t know our kids, and helicopter parenting is now the expected norm. If you dare to let your child play on his own without being within a five-foot distance to supervise, you risk losing your children permanently.

Just ask the parents in Florida who were arrested and children taken away when their 11-year-old son played basketball by himself in their front yard for over an hour. In April 2015, he arrived home before his parents, who were stuck in traffic. So he ate his snack, grabbed a ball, and started shooting hoops. A neighbor called the police and the parents were arrested, in front of their children, for neglect.