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Cara Paiuk Headshot

Why I Can't Stop Taking Pictures of My Kids

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The movement for phone-free parenting is lost on me. My phone camera is a precious, cherished gift that lets me document my family's life. It helps me build a living memoir in which a new chapter is created at the touch of a button, and it gives me some sense of peace to record our lives for posterity. In other words, you will get the phone out of my hands when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

You see, my father died when I was 4 and I have only a handful of memories of him and no mementos. I don't recall the sound of his voice, I don't know what his handwriting looked like, I don't know his smell, or his tone, or his mannerisms. I don't know his inflections or if he was wise, or funny, or all of the above. If something should happen to me, I don't want to leave those gaping holes for my children. I know firsthand how those holes stay with you forever as an ever-present void.

I fear that I too will die when my children are too young to remember me. I fear that something may happen and they will be left with no idea as to who their mother was. I fantasize about writing letters and making testamentary videos for each of my children's birthdays. I want to impart across the ages what little wisdom I might possess, a sense of my humor and a snapshot of my mannerisms to hold in their hearts if anything should happen to me. But I fear if I tried I would start crying and not stop for days. And then the only thing I will have left them is an image of a swollen-eyed, tear-stained, snotty-nosed mama trying to whimper words between sobs. Not exactly the image I want to leave them with.

Instead, I document everything through nonstop photo taking, video recording and blogging/writing. Not the grand, eloquent messages I wish I could send from beyond the grave, but something nonetheless. If something happened to me, I would like to think they could piece together everything I have done and get a picture of who I am, what they meant to me and how much I loved them.

I want them to hear my voice, through movies and through my words. I want them to see themselves through my eyes, through my pictures. I want them to hear us laugh together. I want them to see that I could not stop kissing their delicious cheeks. I want them to see that I was happy. Because of them. Because of the love that enveloped us every day.

I am all too familiar with the void that exists in my life from my father's death, and though I have no control over how or when I am going to die, surely it is within my power to prevent vanishing from my children's lives completely. I know it would have been easier for me growing up if there were more of my father left behind than his deafening absence. I know it would have helped me in becoming an adult if I had been able to somehow benchmark my identity to his. And so, I take pictures. Beautiful, silly, messy pictures of our life. I document it all for them: not just the birthdays and the holidays, but the little moments that get lost unless you consciously try to immortalize them. One day when I am no longer here to tell them, they will know how much I love them, thanks in part to the little camera on my phone.

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