The grassy trail was perfectly groomed. Trees towered on each side of it and off in the horizon, you could see the path open up into a clearing. The sun peeked through the tress and a bit of a breeze made the leaves rustle.
My daughter raced through the woods with incredible energy, the large hat on her head flopping up and down with every step. She would occasionally look back over her shoulder to check if we were there, but still kept pace, racing against herself and broadening the distance between us.
I sighed. My little girl is growing up and this is the vision I have of her running ahead... making her way.
Such a vivid image. Not because of the picture I took to capture it, but because I drank up its beauty and savored the moment before snapping it. I lived it fully and completely.
A few nights ago, my girls were washing their toy dishes. I had set up this activity fully knowing that it would engage both of them. They love being helpful. Plus, washing dishes with Mommy's kitchen cloths and a sink full of bubbles is the most delightful activity ever.
I stood behind my girls, snapping photos of their hands, the bubbles and the dishes.
"Mommy, do you want to dry the dishes?" my oldest daughter asked.
"Not right now," I responded, "I'm taking some pictures."
Stop. The. Bus.
Since when did I become more concerned with documenting the experience than being engaged with it?
This realization hurt. First guilt. Then sorrow. Then repentance.
My daughter turned around and smiled a big toothy grin (that is, after all, what you do when someone is taking a picture of you).
I put the camera down.
"Aren't you going to take my picture?" she asked.
"I changed my mind, I think I will dry the dishes," I replied.
I picked up a tea towel and dried the dishes. As I did so, I took the rest of the pictures with my mind.
I watched how my youngest daughter manipulated the dishes in her tiny hands. I laughed when my oldest daughter tried to smell the bubbles and got some on her nose. I enjoyed the moment and savored the memories.
Sometimes I wonder if taking photos impacts the possibilities of the experience and the connections that can be made. I wonder if it robs me of the feelings, the nuances and the beauty of being in the moment... of being engaged fully and completely with my children.
I want to run through the woods. I want to watch the clouds. I want to swing on the swings. I want to catch the bubbles. I want to squish the Play-Doh. I want to roll down the hills. I want to build the castles and break them down again. I want to be fully and completely engaged. The camera will help me remember the moments, but it can't help me live them.
So for now, I put the camera down. I'm on a mission to take less pictures and make more memories.