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"I don't want another picture, Mommy! The sun is hurting my eyes!"
That was my 7 year old, on Take 10 of what I was certain was going to be the Best Picture Ever. We were in Central California on the coast and we had just pulled the car over to witness some major seal action on the shore.
Of course, like the parents whom came generations before me, I wanted to capture the moment with a photograph. But unlike the generations before me, I was hell bent on making sure that the image would not just reflect the fact that we had found seals, but that we had found seals in a way that was worthy of a Parenting cover.
No, I'm not a photographer. I'm a Facebook user.
Like many of you, I have a mild addiction to social media. I tell myself that posting copious images is my generation's way of preserving pictures - and it is. But truth be told, I didn't put my kid at risk for sun blindness because I wanted a picture "just so" for my own memory bank. I did it so that my 500 social-media buddies could see what an adventurous, cool, fun mom I was.
Except I was none of those things in reality. In reality, my kid missed out on seeing two male seals battle for territory because I wanted one more shot of her without her hair in her face. Not cool.
That was last summer. This summer, I've set some ground rules for myself. Here's a version of them, in case you're interested in spending your summer less focused on selfies and more focused on snuggles.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS,
BUT BEING PRESENT IS WORTH A MILLION MEMORIES
1. Take pictures without caring if hair is mussed or clothes match. Capture more authentic moments and less staged events. Don't disrupt the fun just to tell everyone to smile into the camera. It's often hard to get the energy back once it's been interrupted.
2. Don't take any pictures at all. Be "present" in the present. See that expression with your raw vision, not behind a lens or with a camera blocking the view.
3. If it's important to you to upload images from the day to a social media site, do it when you return home or while the kids are resting.
CONNECT IN REAL TIME TODAY
1. Hold hands. A lot.
2. Do things with your child. Don't just set them up with paints. Sit down and paint a picture. Make that sand castle. Take that dip in the chilly pool. Go on the roller coaster that inspires nightmares. Not every time - but enough to matter.
3. Break the habit of checking social media while out with the family. The most important people in your life are already with you! The rest can wait.
PLAN FOR YOUR FAMILY, NOT FOR A POST
1. There's a temptation to do "more" than what you really want - or the kids really want - just because it would make for a great social media image or post. If your child wants to climb that funny statue, sure. And yeah, snap that picture! But don't make choices for your fam based on how an image of the "do" will be received on social media.
2. New media has inspired many a weekend outing simply because parents want to make it look like they are "doing stuff" with their kids. After all, look at all these other people "doing!" It's cyclical, and it can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Log off social media and check in with your family. Cuddling on the couch for an afternoon might not get many "likes" on a post, but it will fill the hearts of the ones you adore most - and that's really what matters.
3. Stop comparing. That mom with the non-stop images of her perfectly coiffed kids? She's a hot mess sometimes, too - she just might be better with a comb. You "know" that social media is the newestway of putting your "best feet forward," but it still can burn when you see what feels like constant reminders of how your contacts have better... everything. There's a real temptation to join in with a, "Look! We're pretty flippin' great, too!" just because. Don't. That's a no-win game. When we all start being more authentic with both our online and real-life lives, it gives ourselves - and everyone else - permission to be "us," filter free.