It was a perfect blue sky day. We hit the road early (by teenage terms), and just about 90 minutes later found us in Pt. Reyes, California, ready for adventure.
It had taken some cajoling to get both of them to agree to go hiking with me; these days, getting both kids alone, together, was certainly cause for celebration in itself. It's one of the things I miss most about them growing up, actually. The time I took for granted when they were little, time to just be together and hold their hands and explore somewhere new - all that isn't as easily had as before.
Sunscreen applied, water bottles and snacks in our packs, we headed down the trail towards the coast. Everywhere we looked, vibrant wildflowers dotted our view, and lush ferns and berry bushes obscured each side of our narrow trail. The hawks flew overhead, and the sounds of songbirds filled the air. It truly couldn't have been more beautiful.
Stopping to smell the wild sweet peas and snap a few photos, I found myself alone on the trail, lagging far behind my lanky-legged teenagers. Quickening my pace, I caught up just enough to catch a glimpse of them from behind. I've always loved the photos of them like this, when they're not expecting me and in that instant, I imagine all the life they have before them. I'm sure even the hawks could see the joy etched in my face on this glorious day; glimpsing over their shoulders I could just catch the shimmer of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. "Turn around, let me take your picture," I quickly called, worried they would be gone before I caught up. Surprisingly, they obliged, and as I got closer I added,"Let's take a selfie."
I'm sure the hawks could hear their groans of disgust, too.
"No Mom - no selfies," their voices replied in unison as they took off along the trail without me.
What? No selfie? How would we ever remember we were there together? How would they look back on this day and remember I was even there at all?
I've often thought the invention of the selfie is genius - the one way moms are guaranteed to be in the picture! How many moments have I been behind the camera instead of in front of it? What do they mean, no selfie?
Kicking into gear to catch up, I spent the next five minutes being schooled on the three awesome reasons to have a selfie-free summer - according to my teenagers:
1. "Selfies are stupid," they began. "They're not as good as pictures someone else takes and everyone knows it was a selfie. Everyone knows you know you took a dozen shots until you got the right one, and that you stood there forever while the phone was angled in just the right position. Haven't you seen those selfie-sticks, Mom? Those people look so lame waving them over everyone's head, and then they have to carry them around."
Hmmm. Good point. How many times have I been looking out at a gorgeous view when someone suddenly jumps in front of me, spends minutes posing, snapping, checking, posing, snapping, checking...
2. "Selfies are for Snapchat, and that's about it. They're not meant to be saved...they're meant to be silly. How many times have you seen selfies where people look like they've spent hours perfecting their pose? Like they've spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror perfecting their pout or messing around with the right filters?"
Ok-agreed. As much as I dislike Snapchat (I can't stand only seeing an image for seven seconds; heck, it takes me that long to find my glasses!), I really dislike the Instagram selfies of people staring into their bathroom mirrors, perfectly made up and serious supermodel looks on their faces.
3. "Selfies make you miss the moment. Just look, Mom. You're concentrating so hard on getting the right shot, you'll miss all this."
I get it. Isn't that what I preach to them every day? Pay attention to the little things in life. Be present. Be grateful. Look out for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Use your voice - ask someone to help you take a photo instead of staying trapped inside yourself. Look up, breathe, throw your arms open wide and take it all in. This is your moment.
Suitably schooled, I resumed my position at the back of the pack, far enough behind to think. They're so grown, I thought, and I've still got so much to learn. I'm just going to let them lead the way for awhile.
This essay first appeared on Jennifer's blog, mamawolfe.