Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s!
Certain moments occur in every parent’s life that we vow that we will remember: the way she sounded when she said “mama”, the way he looks when he sleeps, or the way she skips around the house. Yet too often our memories betray us, and years later we can’t conjure up those images or those voices, no matter how hard we try.
Today we have tons of aids to remember our kids’ triumphs and foibles, but we don’t always have the time to use them. Many of my friends are into scrapbooking, and I’m always amazed at the wonderful collages they can make of something as simple as photos of kids playing in the leaves or going to the beach. But all that work is way too much pressure for me. My best friend started scrapbooking six months ago, and she already feels as if she’s five years behind! Yet nevertheless, when I see her creations, I feel like a horrible parent for not wanting to join the fun, but I don’t want to start a hobby that will just induce guilt.
So what can we do to stop that memory sieve? After all, one day I’m going to want all those memories to embarrass my children with. I’m already planning the video montage and slide show at my kids’ eventual weddings. My own mother started the tradition. At a speech on my big day, she read aloud the little booklet from my grade one composition class: “I live with my Mommy. Her name is Beth. She sleeps a lot. A real lot.” I used to wake up at 6, and having to wait until 7 to go into her bedroom just about killed me. It defined our relationship at the time.
When my girls were younger, I kept a notebook by my bed where I could write down anything particularly funny my own girls say. One of my entries from ten years ago was when Katie asked, “Mommy, if God has the whole world in His hands, does that mean Australia is getting squished?” I don’t want to forget that. And I won’t even go into what she said when I told her about the birds and the bees. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise if any of you are ever invited to her wedding.
But that embarrassing slide show won’t be complete without pictures and videos. Too often, though, we only get the camera out for special occasions. I’m trying to start taking pictures of everyday things, like how they look curled up in bed reading, or playing the piano, or practising the guitar, or even blow drying their hair.
I always managed to remember to take photos when the kids were little of my oldest child. My younger one, though, was more like an afterthought. When Katie was five I realized I had no pictures of her that did not also include her older sister. My uncle, who grew up in a huge Irish family, once said that if the third child has more than 10 photos taken of him or her by the time he or she is 16, half of them are on file at the police station.
There are so many pictures I wish I had taken with they were younger, but it’s too late to get those years back. But I can still find plenty of embarrassing ones if I start snapping, even today. So this summer I’m being camera happy. And now that my kids are teens, and are well-acquainted with technology, I’m getting them to organize all the photos and videos so that I can find them if I ever need them. I may even let the girls prepare each others’ eventual embarrassing slide shows. But I’m still not taking up scrapbooking.
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