My husband recently shared a family legend, describing how he decided to add joy and mirth to our young daughter’s birthday party by joining the festivities in a gorilla costume. The screams and tears of the young girls attending were not part of the original plan.
One of the column’s readers asked if we had pictures, saying how much she would enjoy seeing them. My reply was that we were too busy coping with hysteria to run for a camera. That reply inadvertently revealed how long ago the botched birthday party was.
Today, most of us are within inches of our phones at all times, if not unremittingly clutching them in our hands. Our ubiquitous camera phones are constantly ready to capture the moment, often with accompanying audio.
I hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot here, but I’d like to suggest that we may not be doing our children any favors with the constant ability to broadcast their cute looks, astounding meltdowns, and adorable sayings. As a grandmother, I treasure seeing these moments. Putting myself in the position of an objective outsider, I’m not sure if all of them are in the children’s best interests.
One of the major treasures of childhood is innocence. As we grow, we quickly learn not to speak openly, to fear being laughed at and to worry about making fools of ourselves. When one of our daughters told me at a tender young age that she wasn’t tired, it was just that, “My head is falling off my shoulders,” I cuddled her and put her to bed. I then proceeded to call my mother and mother-in-law and share that precious gem.
Today’s response might be to start the video rolling, entreating the child to, “Say that again so Grandma can hear it.” Maybe sharing such a moment in that way takes away from the specialness of the warm parent/child interaction as well as adding a layer of self-consciousness to the young one’s life.
I must admit that my husband and I sometimes did have the cameras rolling. We once set up an elaborate scheme for our children to find buried treasure and we were filming as they opened the treasure chest. It pains me that we no longer know where that tape is—it was priceless. I am not trying to make a case for all or nothing, simply suggesting that our ability to put our children on show doesn’t mean that we should automatically do so.
(Message to my own children: If you do tape/film something, do not hesitate to share it with me. No judgment will be offered, just love and enjoyment.)