On experiencing moments instead of just recording them…

Yesterday’s birthday celebration went swimmingly — Mitzi enjoyed the presents we gave her, was thrilled to get so many cards and phone calls from loved ones, and seemed to really love the cake I made for her. I took this picture just after I finished, in case someone spilled it on the floor or something:

Purse Cake

I carried it into the kitchen as we sang the birthday song, and as soon as I put it in front of her I reached for my camera. FAIL. The battery was dead. So I snapped a few ones with my phone, but none came out well, because I’m rather a doofus when it comes to taking pictures with my phone. I lamented on Facebook (where else?) and a friend reminded me that we survived our childhoods without every moment being captured in pictures. And, of course, she is absolutely right.

Not long ago there was a piece on the Huffington Post by a mom about how she started getting herself into the pictures with her children. The blog post garnered a lot of readers, unsurprisingly, since, I think, most moms find themselves mostly taking pictures of their kids and are usually not in any pictures themselves.

This is also true of me — while searching for a baby picture of Mitzi to share yesterday, I started slogging through a lot of old photos. Many are filed in a huge document, where they’d been transferred to from a now-defunct web site where I’d shared them with family. I do not have any other copies — I’ve been through two hard drive crashes and had not backed up either time. (I finally got an external hard drive, yes, slow learner that I am.) Because the individual photos are not labeled, it took me forever to find the one I wanted, so last night I sat down to start transferring everything into iPhoto so I wouldn’t have to repeat my suffering in a few weeks when Cooper has his birthday.

And I realized that I am in virtually none of the pictures. So maybe that’s something I’ll start trying in the future, so my kids don’t look back on their childhood and say, “Um, Mom? Where were you all this time?”

But the other thing I’d like to do is remember that not every moment needs a picture. I mean, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Don’t just step in front of the camera, put it down entirely. Participate in the moment, which will never happen again. If you look at your life, at your beloved, at your children, at the world around you entirely through the lens or via the flat screen of your smart phone, you lose the chance to actually experience what’s happening. You might get a picture of the unexpected hug between two formerly bickering siblings, and it will be cute and everyone in your social media world will say so, but from behind a camera you are not engaged in that moment, not truly.

So put the camera down. Watch the small miracles unfurl in front of you, let them fill you up so much that it spills over to those around you. Live the experience instead of cataloguing it.

And the memory that remains will be more permanent than a digital rendering. I guarantee.

The road to hell, paved with good intentions….

File this under Unbefreakinlievable.

In case you missed it, an Arizona couple is suing Wal-Mart after a store employee in the photo lab developed some of the couple’s family pictures and determined that a few bathtime photos of their three young daughters were pornographic.  The pictures were passed on to local authorities.  Despite the determination by doctors and social workers that nothing was wrong, the investigation continued.  Kids were removed from home for a month.  Couple was required to register as sex offenders.  Mother suspended from job for the duration of the investigation — one year.  After that time, a judge threw the case out.  Because, after all, nothing was wrong.  (Read the story as reported on Good Morning America on Monday.) 

Pardon my language, but WTF?

What parent hasn’t taken a picture of their own uber-cute child in a bubble bath?  Or snug in a towel following said ritual of hygiene?  Or taken a picture of a loved one hugging a child — wrapped in a towel or in a bathing suit or summer shorts?  

To view innocent pictures as perverted speaks volumes to the mindset of that employee who set into motion the wheels of this ridiculous train.  

The couple is outraged, emotionally shattered, and drained.  And what of the agony of those children?  What scars will they carry from this ordeal?  And will Wal-Mart and the local police or that original so-well-intentioned employee be there to mend the wounds?

We all can appreciate our society’s efforts to protect its most innocent members, but this is another example of when those efforts spin out of control.

Like this couple, we try to teach our children to be proud of their bodies, whatever the form that body is.  In a world where sharp focus on one’s appearance leads to devastating consequences like anorexia, bulimia, obesity (and us with three daughters!) self-confidence is paramount.  Love your self, your mind, your body.   To learn that lesson, to nurture and develop as best as you can, you’ve got to know yourself, your mind, your body.

Most kids love to be naked.  Our job as parents is to teach them that there is a time and a place for everything, and the family home, especially the bathroom, is where showing a little skin is okay.  Do we avert our eyes in shame when drying off a toddler after her bath?  Should we remove ourselves from the room altogether and hope for the best?  And if a parent snaps a picture of an irresistibly adorable moment (when naked child chooses to accessorize with a tiara and bedroom slippers but nothing else, or when he piles a two-foot bubble hat onto his head while still in the bath), if a mom or dad captures these moments — for their sweetness or plain hilarity – as the priceless memories  that they are, that’s our business as parents.

Thank you, world, for helping us keep the kids safe when we venture outdoors.  But unless you have some hard evidence that something is actually amiss, keep your Victorian noses out of my home.

(In a not entirely related vein, far more concerning is the exploitation of children for profit that our society seem to be applauding rather than questioning — the recent trend of kids, well, their parents, really, making a buck as precocious adults.  Check out Lauren Beckham Falcone’s recent column on the topic.  And hey, Arizona Wal-Mart staff, you might want to spend a little more time investigating a popular activity in your neck of the woods — preschool beauty pageants.  Nah, not at all as troubling as a naked tush.  My mistake.)