At the beginning of September my partner and I went to the Alberta Badlands for the weekend. The scenery is spectacular and we went to a number of sites including the Hoodoos trail near Drumheller. This place is a natural playground for children. The strange rock formations and mini caves are perfect for scrambling and climbing. We saw many families out enjoying the day.
However, I couldn’t help but notice how many parents had a camera in their hand. They were in an amazing place that seemed divinely designed for imaginative play. Instead of enjoying it with their children these parents were following them around snapping pictures. Often the children were posed climbing on the rocks, so that mom or dad could get a good shot.
I want to assure you that I enjoy my camera and really like taking pictures. In fact I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with taking pictures. It is the perfect way to record a moment in time and it is lovely to look back on those pictures.
Finding a Balance
Still there needs to be a balance between recording memories and enjoying the precious time with our children as it unfolds. It is perhaps the difference between observing an experience and actually living it. It saddens me when I see the camera continually getting in the way of family fun and family connections. Perhaps in this age of social media we are in danger of loosing the balance.
Josh Mishner a mindfulness researcher, and father of four, recently published The Greatest Picture I Never Took on Huffington. It is a thoughtful post in which he reflects on our increasing tendency to take pictures of every single moment.
“It seems like the more pervasive social media becomes to my daily routine, the more frequently I seek out “photo ops” with my family and suddenly, our special moments become less about savoring the experience of being together. They become more about capturing the perfect light, the perfect pose, the perfect smile, etc. I have begun to look at life as not a series of moments to be treasured, but as a series of images to be collected, edited and republished for everyone to share.”
In the article Mishner decided to park his phone in his pocket when he went to collect his young son from school. It was the first day of school, so it was ripe with cute photo opportunities. Instead of taking pictures he engaged fully with his child. It is a lovely read. At the end the author poses a good question
“More often than not, before we pull out the phone or camera, we ask ourselves the question, ‘Is this moment priceless enough to me that I should permanently record it?’
Instead, the question may be better posed as, ‘Is this moment priceless enough to my child for me to play an active part in it?”
It is a good question and sometimes the answer isn’t that clear. Still I think we can all benefit from being a little more mindful about how and when we use our cameras. There are times for taking pictures, but there is also a time for simply being with our children.
The trouble is that every time we take out our camera we are distracted. Our focus is usually on getting a good picture and not on our children. It is really hard to make deep connections at that point.
Your Connection Mission
So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put away your camera for a few hours. Go and do something fun with your children. Here’s a list of simple suggestions. Instead of taking pictures simply enjoy your time together. Be mindful of your children’s laughter, the sound of their voices, and the way they play. Take in their sparkling eyes and the feel of their hand in yours. Follow their lead and play with them. Enjoy some conversation. Instead of looking at these moments through a lens, choose to live them and build some true memories that will last for a lifetime.
If you try this mission I would love to hear from you. How did it feel to leave your camera behind? How did this decision impact your time with your children?