There’s No Such Thing as Taking Too Many Pictures of Your Kids

cell phone

“Put the phone down.”
“You’re taking too many pictures of your kids.”
“Your eyes are the best camera.”

If you’re a parent with Internet access of any kind, you know how controversial a topic phones are in relation to your children. You can’t whip out a soon-to-be-outdated phablet without hitting some parenting “expert” or “guru” telling you what a materialistic and superficial jerk you are for posing your kids in a pumpkin patch or posting a selfie with the kids to Instagram during Touch-a-Truck.

I’m pretty confident in my parenting, but after reading so many of these articles talking about how I’m not actually enjoying life because I’m living it through my cell phone camera lens, I started to worry maybe they were right.

So one day I left the camera in the car.

I took Will and Sam on a hike through some local conservation land, and it was gorgeous. It was hot out, but felt 10 degrees cooler when we entered the forest and walked beneath the canopy of towering maple trees. The pine needles padded our steps and my boys bounded forward with youthful zeal, as slits of sunlight periodically found them and dotted their backs.

We explored the forest and inspected downed trees while wondering if a giant blew them over in a fit. We climbed rock formations and claimed them as newly discovered lands (Willtopia, SamLand, and Dada’s Village if you must know). We ran to the next trail map and studied it forcefully, as if it alone held the key to our ultimate survival.

And then we saw the butterfly.

A Monarch butterfly, you know the type. Wings a deep Halloween orange with jet black lines that made it look like an ornate stained glass window. Little white circles dot the tips of the wings and its head, as it rests on some grass seemingly weightless. It was totally still, and so were my boys. Enraptured. Until…

“Dada,” Sam whispered excitedly. “Take picture of butterfly!”

Crap.

“Sammy, I can’t. I didn’t bring my phone with me,” I said with fear rising in my throat. “But that’s OK, wanna know why? Because we have something better than a camera — our eyes. Let’s look at the butterfly and study it really hard, and we’ll take a mental snapshot so we’ll always have the butterfly in our memory.”

I even did that thing where you make a camera out of your hands, hold it up to your eye and snap a “mental picture.” And I immediately recoiled in horror and felt an unyielding desire to kick my own ass.

He knew it was bullshit. I knew it was bullshit. Sam flipped out and started crying, because — well, that’s what almost 3-year-olds do. The unphotographed butterfly must have also sensed the bullshit level rise to dangerous levels, and with his moment of zen interrupted by shrieking, flew off for parts unknown.

In a desperate attempt to stop Sam’s meltdown, Will had a phenomenal idea. He reminded Sam about our geocaching adventures, and started talking about finding hidden treasure. This idea pleased Sam greatly as his sobs subsided and excitement took over as both boys turned to me for the coordinates to our next find.

Coordinates I didn’t have, because I didn’t have my phone with me.

Taking an excessive amount of pictures of your children and adventures is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. Committing things to memory and looking at the world absent a lens is overrated garbage, mainly because 1) taking pictures doesn’t always take you out of the moment, and 2) my memory sucks.

I’m a working dad. I’m up at 5:30 am, I work all day, I come home to parent, I do some more work, I go to bed. My mind is a ball of mush. It takes me at least two tries to get my kids’ names right, I poured my beer into a sippy cup last week, and the only things I truly remember are random ’90s song lyrics. So while it’s a noble thing to live in the moment and try to commit to memory the look on my sons’ faces when faced with the unparalleled wonder of a Monarch butterfly, I’d rather have my camera so I can have it forever and share it with the people I love who weren’t there.

Cell phone cameras are incredible and allow me to relive moments from years ago whenever I want. You’d be surprised how much I revisit them, especially now with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature that allows you to relive memories from years ago.

Excess can be a real problem in so many areas, but when it comes to pictures of the people and places I love most, there’s no such thing as too much. So have fun being “in the moment” and thinking you’re superior because you left your cell phone in the car. I’ll be busy happily recording memories and avoiding toddler meltdowns.

Just think, if I listened to the know-it-alls and didn’t have my phone with me, I’d miss moments like this.

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7 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as Taking Too Many Pictures of Your Kids

  1. Boy, this is a post that really resonates with me. I’ve embraced the digital and mobile life with gusto. I organize my life with my phone; it’s where I capture things I need to remember, keep track of my tasks, pay for things (when I can), know where and when I need to be somewhere… But most people see their phones as a toy and nothing more. It’s your portal to games and Facebook, brain-dead kind of stuff.

    So I think when people see someone on a phone, they automatically assume that they’re totally checked out. They’ll have no issue with someone reading a book while their kids play at a park, but if you read the same book on your phone you’re terribly disconnected and probably guilty of child abuse.

    The real solution (besides teaching everyone that is phone isn’t actually a toy) is probably encouraging others to mind their own business. It feels like our American culture is now totally committed to focusing on (and fixing!) what everyone else is doing rather than what’s going on in their own lives.

    So I say keep that phone parked in your pocket, and use it freely. Take pictures all the time if you’re so inclined, or don’t, whatever works for you! If you see something that is a legitimate issue, like neglect, then speak up. Otherwise tend to the plank in your own eye rather the speck in someone else’s!

  2. Oh Christ, phablet is a thing? I saw it the other day and assumed it was a typo.

    A monarch butterfly is one of the first things I took a picture of with the crappy Kodak 5x digital zoom I begged my parents for fifteen years ago.

  3. I too am a working dad with memory problems. I have had those same people say to me live in the moment not through a camera. I have also second guessed myself and regreted it. I feel like pictures are a great form of capturing the world around us. I still have a ton of blurry pics I cant get rid of due to the memory that goes with them. My kids are always saying “dad take a picture of this” and I am happy to do so. I also hand them my phone and let them capture the world how they see fit.
    We too look back on all the pictures and movies and laugh, sometimes cry at the memories we created. I look back at my childhood with blured memories and having hardly any pictures and no video evedince to show, wish my parents took more so I could have my kids see what Im talking about. I know when they are older, they can sit down and have their kids see how they grew up. The memories that will be coming for them during this also makes my constant picture taking worth it.

  4. Hey Aaron. Great article! I came across your site when I was doing some ground research for an app I’m developing on precisely this issue: Are parents taking too many photos of their kids and how will that affect how we/they remember important life events? I’m currently beta testing my app, Dotted Story, which allows parents to upload personal photos and attach a recorded audio memory that can be played back in the future. It’s my way of making sure the thousands of photos I take each year have some sort of meaning to my sons in the future…. I think the photography is often more for me than them! Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. I’m putting it out for free right now just to gauge interest and to spread the word. Thanks!

  5. If you had your camera with you and had snapped a hundred photos and your kid had not cried would you have written a blog about it? Seems like you made some memories that day to me.

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