By Dr. Paula Bloom
I recently experienced four consecutive snow days in a row. I live in Atlanta; we aren’t used to this kind of weather. Day 1 was so much fun: the kids had their first experience with sledding. Day 2 was okay: a lot of games, art projects and cooking. Day 3: it began getting old. Today: well, let me just say that I am feeling good about my decision to not home school my kids.
Snow is really beautiful. Ice is scary. Slippery surfaces make me feel unbalanced, out of control. (Not ideal for someone with control-freak tendencies.) I don’t really own a lot of winter clothing or shoes. I went digging through my closet and found a 10-year old pair of Merrell snow mocs (I would imagine that the particular model is no longer even sold .) I slipped on my shoes, put on a long gray down coat, I’d bought a few years ago for a January trip to Chicago, and I was on my way.
Since all our family members live far away I take a lot of pictures. This way grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends can keep up with what we’ve been doing and how the kids are growing. I can never seem to get it together to send out one of those photograph holiday cards, therefore frequent photos on Facebook for friends and family sort of make up for it (or so I tell myself!)
My kids and I had never gone sledding before. As a somewhat neurotic mom the thought of watching my kids throw themselves down a snow-covered hill is hardly on my bucket list. The landscape was, however, breathtaking. I tried really hard to stay calm but each time the kids went down the hill I got nervous. Instinctively I began taking pictures. I realized, in that moment, that in this case, taking pictures was a way to create some distance between me and them. It calmed me down.
When I’m taking pictures I feel like both an observer and a participant. It hit me that being behind the camera can keep me from experiencing what is in front of it. So often when I’m out with my kids I’m thinking of what would make a good picture. I like candid shots but when I’m asking them to smile, not hit each other, or when I ask my daughter to get the hair out of her eyes am I really capturing life? Am I trying to control our memories or am I merely recording them?
I want my kids to remember the fun times we shared as a family and yet I know it is important they learn that life is filled with good, bad and everything in between. Maybe I need to start taking pictures of the house when it is messy, my face when I’m disappointed and their faces when they are crying after falling off their bikes. I guess, like walking on ice, it is a delicate balance. I’m not concerned that they won’t remember the pain in their lives. People tend to remember negative events pretty easily. A few photos to remind them of the joy can maybe help balance out the pain.
I hope my kids will know that their mother lived life beside them. I guess hiring a photographer to follow us around would be ideal. Come to think of it, not so much. I’d have to keep my house cleaner and yell less at my kids. Wouldn’t want them to miss the whole life experience, now would I?
How do you balance living moments vs. photographing them? Are you a scrap booker? How do you decided what is worthy of documenting? I’d love to hear from you!