We carry our phones like they are arms and legs, never to be apart from them. Then we take pictures of home runs, making a goal, getting diplomas, receiving trophies, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Now we have those great recorded moments, but did we get to really be there at the same time?
When is the avid picture-taker taking too many pictures?
I hadn’t taken a vacation alone with my husband in thirteen years without my children. It was long overdue. We went to Paris, quite an extravagance. I took hundreds upon hundreds of pictures from paintings in museums to food at an outdoor café. There was nothing that didn’t excite me and I had a wonderful time.
But at some point in my journey, I became afraid that I was looking at that outstanding painting or sculpture through a lens of a phone instead of the lens of my eyes. I’m a painter, so I took not only the whole picture, but parts of the painting to capture the brush strokes.
But it dawned on me, fortunately, part way through the trip, that if I looked through the camera lens, was I was missing the energy and rhythm of the painting that I gained from stepping forward and backward to view it?
While taking a picture of a delicious pastry was I enjoying the taste as much as this yummy culinary creation warranted?
Children, too, have deep expressions in their eyes and mouths as they do things. Their pace while running, their energy while making that goal, the thrill of the birthday wish while blowing out the candles can’t be captured on film. Their look in your eyes as they triumph and seek your approval will be missed if your camera is in front of those eyes. But that eye-to-eye contact is captured internally when you look and feel the moment without being encumbered by your phone externally.
I remember being told by my grandchild who looked deeply in my eyes as I knelt before him, “I love you Grandma.” I remember the time my baseball player son was running in from the outfield and tipped his hat at me in the audience sitting in the stands. Gosh, what a feeling! He was thinking of me as he ran–oh the love that we have. I feel the chills as I write.
Yes, if someone else had been watching, it would have been great to have pictures of those moments. But thank goodness, I didn’t have my phone in my hand. Instead I have those memories deeply engraved in my heart and mind that’s so much better than a photo that would have transformed the moments into something entirely different.
It’s also important to respect the wishes of children who don’t like having their pictures taken. It’s quite obvious when this is true. They run from you, hide their faces, and sometimes just blatantly tell you they don’t like it when their picture is taken. Maybe they are self-conscious. That’s probably so.
But maybe they, too, feel like you’re missing their moment by hiding behind your camera viewer instead of just being with them.
As parents, we need what I call “camera wisdom.” We need to be less impulsive and consider the feelings of the child being photographed, the meaning of the moment, and the joy we might be missing by hiding our eyes, the windows to our souls, when we take a picture.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with an upcoming book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to be released October. 13.