I love to take pictures. Like, love. Ask anyone in my family. It’s actually become a bit of an obsession.
Not because I have to capture every sunset or azalea or cormorant that I see, because I don’t. And not because I aspire to be an amateur photographer, because that’s not even on my radar. I take lots of pictures of my family because I want to capture moments — moments when my girls are actually being civil to each other or when one of them is snuggling with the dog or, oh, I don’t know, when they’re being particularly sweet to me.
Unfortunately for me, though, my kids aren’t exactly what you’d call entertained by my requests to snap photos of them.
In fact, they hate when I have my phone in my hand and it’s elevated within any vague proximity of my face. Because they know. They know that I’m secretly trying to seize a moment, and it drives them insane. Insane.
Now, it’s not like I’m going to make life-sized photo cutouts of them at Staples and put them on the front lawn. And I’m certainly not going to make our family holiday card out of a cute shot of the girls walking through the mall with my husband.
I just treasure special moments more than just about anything. Because we happen to live in a world where most of us have the ability to capture said moments at any given second thanks to cell phone cameras, I use the technology to my advantage whenever I can. The problem is, they rebel. Every time.
We’ve actually gotten into arguments because I’ve asked to take their picture. Either they didn’t want to because their hair didn’t look right or their makeup wasn’t on point, or they think they hate the outfit they’re wearing.
There’s never a good time. Yet (and this is what absolutely kills me) they’re constantly taking the most ridiculous looking, unflattering selfies or Instagram pictures of themselves twenty-four hours a day. And they’re posting them on every social media feed that they have.
It’s like the epitome of hypocrisy.
They’re Snapchatting the dumbest, most absurd pictures of themselves with their faces swapped or with long, dangling dog ears superimposed over their heads, and they’re sending those pictures to all their friends, yet if I ask for a quick shot, they react like I just killed the family dog.
I’ve watched them photograph themselves from the worst possible angle with the worst possible lighting, looking absolutely heinous, yet they can’t strike a cute pose for me when I ask them.
I’m not sure I can take it much longer.
I ask for very little as a mother. Sure, I ask for all the standard stuff, like good behavior, good effort in school, kindness, and sporadic cleaning of a bedroom; but aside from that, I’m pretty low maintenance. I ask for very little.
No one needs to get me a birthday gift or a Chanukah present or shower me with special treatment. All I want is to be able to freeze a meaningful spec of time in a photo that’s meant just for me. Something I can look at months or years later that brings me back to that moment.
But noooooooo, that’s too much to ask because I get pushback every single time. I don’t get it. I’ve learned the Parent-Child-Social-Media Code. I know better than to ever, ever post a photo of my kids on Facebook without obtaining prior approval. (Made that big mistake a few times and lived to regret it.)
So I get it. I know how the arrangement works, which is exactly why I always give my girls the assurance and the promise that any photos I take are for my eyes only unless otherwise specified. Although that occasionally works — usually when they want something from me really, really badly — it’s not foolproof.
I just want to be able to take pictures of my kids without having to make absurd threats like “No car” or “I’m shutting off your cellphone service if you don’t get over here.” Is it really that much to ask?
See, what my kids (and most kids) don’t understand is that there’s a major shift that happens when we become a parent. Every moment with our newborn or toddler or tween becomes a memory worth capturing. Every little smile or sweet encounter or cute haircut has the potential to be one of those moments. As the people who take care of them day in, day out, I think we deserve to be able to capture them any time we want.
Sadly, though, it doesn’t often work that way.
So for now, I’ll just keep using threats to get them to hold still. Eventually, though, when they have their own kids, they’ll understand. Unfortunately for me, my age spots will be way more obvious on film by then. Cycle of life, right?
For more from Lisa Sugarman, visit LisaSugarman.com and Twitter and click here for an exclusive offer to pre-order her upcoming book Untying Parent Anxiety.