For over two years, I have kept the tradition of taking a picture a day – just one picture – that represents my day. I take the snapshot on my phone, and – using the marvelous Rhonna app – add text to explain that day’s picture. I finish by uploading it to a special album on my personal Facebook page.
More often than not, the picture is of my daughter: her shenanigans, sweet moments spent together, everyday childhood moments. Sometimes the picture is of my cat or a drawing my daughter gave me or a paper she brought home from school. Sometimes it’s a posed family portrait on a major holiday, and sometimes it’s a blurry selfie of my husband and me on our date night. Sometimes it’s sweet and nostalgic, but sometimes it’s almost embarrassingly weird. You really never know.
I’ve had a lot of comments on my “Picture a Day” albums on Facebook. Those who don’t get to see my daughter very often love to see what she’s up to, and because I often capture her hilarious quotes in my editing of the picture, they’re often good for a laugh. Other parents with young school-aged children comment that they’re so relieved when my picture isn’t perfect (e.g. overflowing laundry baskets in the background or a picture of a foul-tempered kid). Empty-nesters always tell me they live vicariously through my everyday snapshots, reminiscing their years at home with their littles before they went out into the great big world of adulthood.
I love those comments, and yes, they make me feel good. But none of that is really why I started this project. I started it, simply, so that I would be more present in my own life.
Let me back up. When my daughter was a tiny little thing, I took a bajillion
almost identical pictures every single day. Pictures of her playing. Pictures of her eating. Pictures of her sitting and staring at the wall. If she did it during her waking hours, I had a picture of it. (But let’s be honest here. I took a lot of pictures of her sleeping hours, too, because seriously? How adorable is a sleeping baby?) My hard drive and memory chip were inundated. And I was overwhelmed. What do you do with all of those pictures?
And despite the thousands of frozen moments I had captured, I had an intense feeling that I was missing the actual moments. I was becoming a mom who lives her child’s life through a window on a camera or the image on the back of my phone, and I developed a real fear that once my daughter got older, I was going to look back and regret – rather than cherish – the sheer volume of pictures I had amassed. Because while a picture is a moment frozen in time, the act of taking the picture has a way of removing me – even if for just a moment – from the moment. And as I watched my daughter growing up right before my eyes, I couldn’t bear the thought of millions upon millions of moments I would miss, all because I was trying to clench my fist around them for the sake of “preserving memories.”
So I stopped my mamarazzi tendencies. Yes, if she’s doing something particularly awesome I will take a little series of pictures. If it’s a big event, I’ll still have a virtual flip book of the day. But for the everyday moments that heap upon each other to create this thing called life? I’m more concerned about living them than preserving them.
I decided I would take one picture a day. And honestly? It was hard at first. Sometimes I had to choose between a few pictures. Sometimes I had to get my husband’s help in deciding which one to use because I had taken *ahem* more than just one. But as I developed the discipline of seizing the moment instead of capturing the moment, it got easier. Not perfect, but easier.
Sometimes I even forget to take a picture, because our day has been so fun….or because it’s been so ordinary. And sometimes? When I realize there hasn’t been anything photo-worthy about the day? I create a moment. And if the day hasn’t necessarily been a wonderful one I want to reminisce on in years to come? Sometimes I take a picture of the ugliness….and sometimes I salvage the ugly day by creating an opportunity for a better memory. I’ll pull my daughter from her chair, where she’s in a funk, and take her outside for a walk. I’ll ask her if she wants to bake cookies. I’ll see if she wants to read together.
Bottom line? It’s not about the pictures. It used to be, yes, because I was so terrified of forgetting everything. But now, I’m relying more on the memory in my head and less on the memory in my computer to store these fleeting days of my daughter’s childhood. They’re slipping by, whether I have a picture of them or not, and I’m doing my best to seize them before they’re gone.