Wednesday, May 1, 2013

These pictures do not reflect the actual moment

I think on the days I have my daughter, I take about 20 photos per day. Of those photos, three or four make it to Instagram. Of those, one may make it to Facebook.

When I look at other photos of my friends' kids, I picture that picture being the exact window into how that child actually acts. If I were to do that with my photos, I would think my daughter is constantly happy, silly and adorably silent. That's the thing with photos: There is no sound.

What people don't see are the minutes prior when I'm chasing my daughter and telling her not to run into the woods, pick up rocks and throw them, or not to eat the bubble wand. The photos they see are her face with woods in the background, looking happy and attentive. Or walking on a rocky path that winds around the pond in front of our apartment building. Or surrounded with bubbles that I blew seconds before with the camera poised for action.

It's all a lie.

Even my status of "One, two, two, poo, fi, Mommy, do, hat, (blowing raspberries), Kee-tee. In case you can't quite crack the code, that's how L. counts to 10." was something of a lie, considering she was "repeating" after a Brainy Baby video of counting. I'd like to think others picture me, a loving mom with perfect hair making snacks with fresh, organic vegetables and some sort of grain that can only be found at Whole Foods, counting repeatedly with L., who is sitting in her chair like a little lady, holding up the appropriate number of fingers. Alas, her "perfect" mommy was on the couch recovering from our recent walk, while she stared at the numbers popping up on the screen, read by an unknown lady.

But I know I'm not the only mommy. I was recently talking to my best friend from high school who had her son two weeks before I had L. I told her in her pictures, he seems like the perfect angel and how jealous I was he never seemed to have a temper like my 2-year-old or had tantrums that would make even the meanest of jungle animals scared. 

She rolled her eyes and said, "Oh yeah? He's no angel. Not at all. He gives me hell, too!"

It was then I realized the lies photos tell. Pictures may be worth 1,000 words, but none of them convey the message, "This is NOT how she acts all the time. This is a split second and she's only still and in focus because of my shutter speed."

Now when I look at photos on Facebook from moms I used to envy before pledging to give up the Mom Guilt, I picture the few minutes before the photo was taken when they didn't want to hold the stuffed animal. Or that morning when they fought tooth and nail to not get into the sweet little outfit shown on Facebook. I secretly smile to myself. Not out of hate or judgment, but out of, "No, I get it."

So why not post those photos? Why not take photos of the meltdowns? Those are, after all, part of a child's personality too. Those are what we may use as a way to remember to take our birth control every day. Well, the answer to that is relatively simple. No one wants evidence of being a bad mommy, even though it's not our faults. We don't want the public to know we don't have it all together. And that doesn't just go for parents; I would never post a screenshot of my bank account when an automatic payment I've forgotten about leaves me with a negative balance.

Remember the days of cameras with film? Or even disposable cameras? None of that equipment was cheap. No one wasted film on taking a photo of the picture their kid just drew: they had the picture. And it wasn't like there was anywhere to post the photo so friends and family could see it anyway. You had to wait for someone to come over and see it on the fridge to get a "like" or comments. So, when you got a roll of film developed, any random moment between lifting the camera to your eye, pressing the button, waiting for the flash or sequence of flashes to go off and, finally, for the shutter to open an close could have been captured. In toddler time, that could be the time it takes to go through every emotion from complete meltdown to pure joy to an awkward face to that telling face of, "I'm pooping now!" This is why I look at my mom's photo albums of me and wonder why sometimes I looked adorable and other times resembled Quasimodo.

Unfortunately, in this age, I've been spoiled by my iPhone and digital cameras. Oh, that photo's a little blurry? Her eyes are closed? My finger's in the frame? Delete it! But ... I'm deleting photos of my child. Cue the Mom Guilt! I'm deleting photos! Of my baby! That's EXACTLY like deleting my baby! And, look at all these photos! Was I even enjoying my time with her? Or will my daughter one day draw a photo of her Mommy holding a black rectangle over her face and an Apple logo?! Am I hiding behind my camera and missing actually living in the moment?!

But then, after giving L. a bath, singing and reciting nursery rhymes while putting on her pajamas, reading as many stories as she wants and cuddling, I put her to bed. Since this routine is pretty standard for us, I don't have the camera at the ready for it. In fact, most of the time, the phone is in the other room for all of this. I get to put my entire focus on her. Although, I know there will be a time she won't climb into my bed, put her head on my chest as I read "Goodnight Moon" two or three times, there isn't a camera in sight. Partially because no one is actually there to take the photo, since my boyfriend is at work the nights I have her. And partially because I am so into the moment, I don't even think about it. The nights she is at her father's and I don't get to do our nighttime routine are hard for me. And the cats don't really like when I try to recreate it with them. But, also, I'm glad I don't have photos to share those moments with others. It somehow seems special that L. and I seem to be in our own little world before she goes to sleep.

And, even after a little while, the bedtime routine puts me in such a good mood, I end up going back to my phone and looking through the photos on my phone and somehow, I find myself focusing on only the good times with her. Not the tantrums. Not the attitude. Not the physical strength she fights me with when I have to pull her away from something dangerous. No, those seems like fleeting instances. Flukes, almost. What I see in every photo, whether it's even blurry or she's turned her head, is that I had a feeling I wanted to remember the experience of being with her.