As a mom, I feel pressure to preserve every moment of my four children’s lives. In years past, I had been known to detail and file photographs of my little ones the same day they were printed. I have lost sleep to record baby milestones in Winnie-the-Pooh record books or write blog posts into the wee hours of the morning. I have written weight, height and head circumference on the back of receipts, only to discover my jottings months later (realizing I forgot to write down which child the stats belong to).
In my best efforts to preserve the here and now, I might have missed the most important part of the present: the simplicity of the moment. And although I don’t always get this right, I think I am starting to understand the secret for how it’s done. Tuning out the noisy demands of technology, I instead allow time spent with my children to be the focal point of my heart. The art of being rather than doing.
A few short years ago, I visited a friend who had just experienced a house fire. She was understandably in a blurry daze. With her house still smoldering in the distance, she shared that what bothered her most, secondary to the obvious loss of her beloved home and belongings, was the destruction of her three sons’ baby record books. Although her boys were safe and sound, it was reasonable for her to grieve the detailed chronicle of her young children’s lives. It was heart-wrenching to watch her sadness.
I understood on many levels what she was feeling. I knew from my own record-keeping the treasures those pages held and the time invested in recording those precious memories: that first of all photographs, the ultra-sound picture; the hospital bracelet; the baby shower invitation; the health records. That first curl, snipped and carefully sealed inside an envelope. A tiny footprint sealed in black ink.
Priceless reminders, these icons of the baby years. They are irreplaceable. But thankfully they are merely symbols of life, and for this friend, the lives they stood for were still with her.
Another friend and I were speaking a few years later. The conversation again centered around loss and symbols, only this time the priceless loss was the child. As precious as the remaining symbols were to this mother–the little sleepers, the photographs, the receiving blankets–they could not replace the child they represented. They were but painful reminders of what could have been.
As much as the chronicling of my own children’s lives means to me, the records I’ve kept are disposable. The pictures fade, the plaster cracks, the baby clothes I have carefully washed and folded away are all now yellowed, in spite of my best efforts. Even the memories fade a bit with the passage of time. But what remains are the all-important relationships we have forged.
At the end of the day, what we remember are the feelings and emotions. My children know my love through my careful use of time. Watching them play soccer after school, sitting with them side-by-side as they practice piano, lovingly sudsing up fine baby hair with fragrant shampoo. Holding hands, kissing cheeks, family hug fests. Building ‘I love you’ into actions, not just words and mementos.
I’m far from advocating that we stop documenting our precious memories altogether. The advances of technology have made it so much easier for parents to keep an ongoing chronicle of their children’s lives, and I’m not going to stop record-keeping. I’m just going to occasionally pull my head out from behind the camera to watch my kids with the naked eye rather than always observing them through a lens. And when I start to feel guilt that I haven’t updated my children’s baby books, I am going to gently remind myself that it is not the updates that count: it’s the wonder of the moment.
There is no time like the present in which to really live, love and laugh. These immediate moments are the memory makers: the ones that really count.
QUESTION: Reflecting on your own record-keeping, where do you hang in the balance? Do you spend too much time “behind the lens” or at the computer writing blog posts?
CHALLENGE: Take one minute right now to think about where you stand with record-keeping. If you are doing too much or it has become draining for you and your family, jot down a list of ways that you can simplify, so you can more fully enjoy moments with your children.