It is a scientific fact that the years appear to go by faster as we age. It’s all to do with the way we perceive time passing relative to the amount of time that we have experienced. To a 1 year old child, a year is literally forever, it’s all the time they have known; for a 50 year old, it’s just 2% of that time, and so it appears to go by much faster.
While it is not a scientific fact, it is an observable truth that raising children seems to accelerate the phenomenon.
No sooner have we adjusted to the grind of 24 hour newborn care than it seems we are setting alarms and packing school lunches. In no time we are operating a taxi service to meet the kids’ hectic activity and social schedules. Birthdays, Christmases, family milestones all come and go in the blink of an eye. Tiny feet that could be held in the palm of one hand so recently are now in size 10 men’s shoes. Toy planes and building blocks give way to guitars and skate boards. The Wiggles are superseded by Metallica. It’s no exaggeration to say that the years are flying by.
Like most parents, I have developed something of an obsession about recording as many of those precious, fleeting moments as possible. One day, I reason, those pictures will be the only tangible reminder of the whirlwind that was their childhood.
So I have done what nearly every parent in the digital age does – used my smartphone. I have shot thousands of images of my growing family. Images that I always imagined will one day be a visual time capsule, a prompter of memories and a source of joy in our twilight years. This, I have reasoned, is a very good thing. Too many photographs are barely enough. After all, I don’t want to forget anything.
It is the curse of the designated family photographer. We are doomed to be absent in virtually every single image. I remember joking to my husband when my oldest was a toddler that, if I got hit by a bus, my son would think that I had never even held him!
About a year ago, in the midst of a regular sort and save of my digital photo library, I had an epiphany. The fact that I am not in a vast majority of these memories is a shame, but this is not the greatest disservice I had done to myself and my family. In my determination to not miss recording one single special moment of my children’s lives, I realised that I had, ironically, missed every single moment. You see, even though I was there, I was not really there. I wasn’t in the moment, not when I had that phone in my hand. About this same time, I read an article about the importance of being truly present.
Ellen Langer, Harvard psychologist and the author of the book, ‘Mindfulness’, says that “everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how. When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” This resonated with me and I swore that never again would I allow so many beautiful, fleeting moments beautiful moments to pass me by while I passively recorded them, saving them for enjoyment at some future date. Now I make a conscious effort to live in the moment. I take a few happy snaps, then I put the phone away so that I can be a part of life, rather than an observer.
Recently I began what I hope will be an annual tradition. Aware that my new approach would severely reduce my store of photographic memories, I hired a professional lifestyle photographer. After a bit of toing and froing we settled Point Walter Reserve, a local beauty spot on the river not far from our house and where we spend a lot of leisure hours. We played, we climbed, and we splashed in the water. The kids caught (and released) jellyfish and crabs and jumped off the jetty. We had a gorgeous day out. My phone stayed in my bag, and only our photographer, Mike from Mike Beltrametti photography, was allowed to touch a camera (or device).
The outlay was worth it. In a single afternoon, Mike managed to capture what I never have. He caught us being us, the way we are with each other, loving, laughing and enjoying being together. The results are outstanding and, even better, they aren’t hiding away in computer files. They’re on display where I can enjoy them, not just in the future, but every single day. These, plus just a few of my happy snaps, are more than enough to remind me of how I just enjoy being a part of it all.
Perhaps the most surprising, is that, by exchanging documenting for living, I believe I have actually succeeded in slowing things down. Just a little.