He came around the corner with the smile of a conqueror. He had done it! He had sculpted a masterpiece.
I was causing deeper indentions in my favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket, and warming with a book.
Edward came tearing around the kitchen counter holding a green glob of play-doh.
“I made a Christmas tree! I did it, Mama!”
He was so proud.
My boy, who has struggled with imagination and creativity, actually made a representation of something with a blob of molding clay. It really did look like a Christmas tree!
“Hold still, let Mama get her phone and take a picture,” was my first response.
But I couldn’t find it. I could have sworn it was right here. Alas, my only unattached appendage was nowhere to be found.
I felt my emotions plummet. How could I savor this exciting moment without a photo? What if he never makes a tree just like this again? It was so cute, how would I ever remember it?
Meanwhile, my creative and impatient five year old blinked at me. “Um, remember me, Mama?” he had to be thinking. “You know, the one who just crafted play-doh together and came to show you?”
After a too-long hesitation, I snapped back to reality.
“Edward! Your creation is marvelous. I love how you coiled the dough into a tree and added specks of the orange play-doh to make ornaments. You really made it look like a Christmas tree! Nice job!”
Following my praise, he scampered back around the corner. He was headed to make another creation and mix colors in ways that make me twitchy.
I, on the other hand, had no picture of Edward and his tree. What I did have was a mental image of my son – a child seeking praise. In my mind’s eye, I wasn’t framing the look of proud accomplishment, I was zooming in on the look of disappointment that flashed in his sweet, brown eyes. Unnoticed. Overlooked.
My boy came to the living room wanting to show me, his mom, a masterpiece, and I immediately broke our eye contact and our connection as I searched for my phone.
Dear Edward came to me, one whom he loves, with a smile and healthy pride. He left in defeat as I did not focus in on what was important.
I have over 45,000 photos on my computer.
That’s right. Forty-five thousand snapshots of creations and accomplishments. And for what? Sometimes I share them on social media. Occasionally they are texted to the grandparents. But is it really necessary to document every second of our days?
No. It’s not.
Pictures are great. I love seeing pictures from my childhood. I gained my love of photography from my dad, so I’m no stranger to being in pictures. My brother and I’s proudest moments have been cataloged.
But I cannot remember a single photo of my play-doh creations. I do remember my dad’s proud smile as I showed him my current art project in high school. I remember my mom’s praise as I brought home an improved grade or my current writing project.
I remember our interactions, not the color of play-doh used to make ornaments on the tree.
Similarly, I want Edward to remember his value as my son, a creative.
I want to put away my phone and capture his heart and his confidence in my reaction. I want to remember encouraging him to do his best and grow in his weaknesses, even if I don’t remember his handiwork.
Your children want the same. While it is ok to capture memories and savor the moments, it is more important to build up character and confidence.
I, for one, need to lose my phone more often. There is a lesson to be learned in the interaction.