It wasn’t until my five-year-old daughter’s class had finished their second (and last) holiday concert song when the realization hit me. I didn’t capture a single photo or video. I’m certainly not unfamiliar with slacker guilt surrounding my kids. Sure, I chide myself when I forget to pack snack or push bath day off — again — but how did I miss this one? Who doesn’t take a picture of their kindergartener singing in her once-a-year school concert? Me, apparently.
After I realized my neglect, I became acutely aware of the cameras surrounding me. There were the parents holding up their phones or tablets who had no issue blocking the views of those behind them. There were the parents who had gotten there early and had a camera set up on a small tripod at the front. There were the parents who had gotten there late and shuffled their way from the back of the room to come and perch uncomfortably on the floor — or, even bolder, to ask to squeeze in “for just a minute” with strangers so they could take a photo of their kid.
When I looked around the room, I saw the stress of people trying to grab the perfect shot or accommodate those who were trying to grab the perfect shot, and I had to wonder if it was worth it.
And, it’s not just “regular” people who have assumed the role of avid chronicler. As a New York Yankees fan, a few years ago I watched on television as (best closer ever!) Mariano Rivera’s number was retired, and the ceremony brought back many uber-successful players and managers who stood on the field alongside Mo. In amazement, I watched these guys videotaping the ceremony with their personal phones. Here are multi-millionaires who could easily pay for a recording, and they’re standing there looking through a screen at this historic moment. And now with the selfie craze, you can’t watch a red carpet event without seeing personal devices flashing everywhere.
While not intentional, my not taking a photo of my daughter made me enjoy the performance even more. I was able to really look at her and her classmates and be in the moment rather than focusing on whether I had zoomed in enough or caught the precise moment when she wasn’t sucking her thumb or picking her nose.
There is a lot of research and coaching around mindfulness these days — about being there in the moment, completely focused on the present. I admit I haven’t given mindfulness much thought. I’m the type of person who opts for cardio or strength classes at the gym versus yoga because it feels like a waste of time to do so much breathing and talking about breathing.
With two young girls and a full-time job outside the home, I spend my minutes planning my next minutes, knowing that I’ll never get everything done if I don’t. I know what I’m going to think about during my shower and what I need to do Tuesday so that Thursday doesn’t blow up. That’s life right now.
But if I can choose to do—or not do—little things then maybe I can be more present for me and my family. I certainly don’t plan to stop taking photos or video altogether, but I don’t have to document every move my kids make. I don’t think I’ll be deemed a bad mother because I didn’t photograph for posterity every sandcastle my kids built on vacation or the 1,000th ice cream cone they spilled on their pajamas during breakfast.
And just because I didn’t post a photo on Facebook of my daughter singing a Christmas carol doesn’t mean I didn’t care. Maybe it means I cared enough to put down the camera to really see and hear her. Well, in this case I simply forgot — but next time it will mean I cared.
I’m thrilled we have the technology to capture and share key moments in real time, but in 2017, I’m going to think twice before raising my phone. After all, long after I forget about the pictures stored on my device, it’s the feeling I’ll take away from these life events that will stay with me — no gigabytes required.