The other night, I was rocking my son after story time and he relaxed his head on my shoulder and in slow breath, whispered, "happy, happy." It was just the two of us; there was no video camera to record that moment and no photo to capture the delicious coziness that radiated through me. If I had someone following me around with a camera, I would've whispered, "Take a picture! I'm going to want to remember this!" But, of course, that didn't happen, and instead I folded that memory into hundreds of others that are only a blurry vision of the last year and a half.
I do take pictures, of course, but I feel like I'm always five seconds too late. Especially with a toddler, it's so hard to capture that one perfect second. His expression changes; his body is different. It's so fast. I blinked and he's almost two. Where did all those days go? I have images of him as a challenging 10 year old and of an introverted teen. I want to be fully present, in each day of my life. I don't always take pictures. But I should.
It's easy to get caught up in day-to-day life. There are annoying things like the cleaning, cooking, and chores that take up so much of our time. But in 20 years, I will not be looking at pictures of my vacuum and dishwasher skip across my computer screen. I will be smiling at pictures of people, from the good to the bad to the crazy moments that make up my adulthood and our family history. Right now, I am helping to form the childhood my son will reflect on. For anyone who gets the chance to raise a child, it is pure magic. But it's quiet and small.
Many adult milestones, like completing a professional project, graduating, or overcoming a hurdle on the job happen in front of people. There's validation and celebration. We feel good. Someone is telling us that this moment is one worth remembering. We bring a camera, we snap a photo. That one goes in the scrapbook.
But parenting is different. The validation isn't there; no one is pointing out the times we should celebrate. We may not bring along the camera, because we convince ourselves that what we are doing isn't a big deal. We're just going for a walk around the neighborhood, we're just going swimming in the pool.
But all these little, ordinary moments make up a family's story and create a person's childhood. As parents, it's in our hands to choose what those moments will be.
That is a big deal. That is spectacular.
So the next time you're hanging out with your kids, take the camera with you. Snap the moment, even if it's just an "ordinary" day. Imagine someone is asking you to describe a great family moment. It's that moment. What would you say? What do you want your kids to remember?
Sarahlynne, MEd, is a Parenting Guru. She also writes for Project Marriage and can be found on Twitter at @Sarahlynnes.