Why I Stopped Taking So Many Pictures of My Kids

I wanted it all.

My children’s first everything. Their first steps. Their first time jumping through rain puddles. Their first bouncy house.

Firsts. Seconds. Thirds. Everything.

I wanted to capture my girls’ pure elation as they explored and absorbed the world.

Later, when they were in bed, I’d revisit the photos on my phone. It didn’t take long to find the moment that had been so perfect.

To find the Kodak moment that had been gnarled by my camera phone.

There they were. My daughters. Staring back at me from my iPhone. Well, I think they were. Their faces were totally blurred, their tiny arms around each others’ necks a fuzzy, peach blob.

“Man, I missed it,” I’d mutter to myself.

The photos were unusable, so I begrudgingly let the tiny trash can on my phone slurp them into the garbage.

Instead, I tried to recollect the image. To resurrect the moment from memory. But all I could remember was how my girls had looked at me.

Like I had betrayed them.

I was no longer Mom, but a villainous invader. Someone to be kept at a distance.

I could only imagine how foolish I looked to them—my phone raised, a glass screen separating Mommy from their perfect moment.

I shattered the perfection trying to capture it.

I only know this because I witnessed it myself. At the park. Where a mother cornered her kid by a rosebush and told him to stay still and smile.

Which he did.

“Can I go play?” the kid eventually asked. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time a photo-op had sprung up in public.

“No,” the mom said, raising her phone again. “I want to get another picture.”

I saw a lot of myself in this mother. In fact, I saw lots of mothers in this mother.

All I wanted was to freeze the perfect moments and save them forever.

My intentions were good. Filled with love and adoration, in fact.

But Satan always smells sweet.

I’m not saying that photography is evil, and I’m not saying that taking pictures of your kids is a sin.

But when it gets to the point where you need to snap that picture—your fingers itching to capture the moment instead of playing in the dirt to experience it—that’s when things become tricky. Dangerous, even.

And that’s right where I was. My first response was to run to my phone, not to my children.

I could see it in their eyes.

The innocent eyes that gleamed with total purity and joy.

The same eyes that clouded with distrust the moment I pulled out my camera.

I was so hell-bent on capturing the moment, I sacrificed the gift of experiencing it.

Funny how that works.

And when you sacrifice the gift of experiencing, even three-year-olds can recognize you as a fake. An imposter.

A paparazzi. Or mamarazzi, in this case, I guess.

I stopped taking so many pictures of my kids so I could regain their trust. So I could spend that time building our relationships instead of my portfolio.

Now, whenever I get the itch to take their picture, I ask first. I give them the choice. Just like anyone would do if they were going to take a picture of an adult.

Instead of unwilling subjects or coerced models, my girls now have the choice to participate.

Of course, that also means they have the right to decline. Which, let’s be honest, is what usually happens.

Thank God.

Because in those moments, I get to abandon my phone and dive wholeheartedly into their world.

In those moments, my daughters invite me to share life with them. To make memories instead of photos.

They ask me to participate. To experience.

In those moments, my daughters teach me to live.

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