A few months ago I stumbled across my old digital camera as I was searching through my desk drawers. For so many years, this camera had been by my side as I documented the newlywed years of our marriage and then later our first adventures as parents. This 10-year-old camera has long since been replaced by my phone, yet I’ve never been able to bring myself to get rid of it.
This summer the camera landed in the hands of my six-year-old son. It was the perfect gadget to entertain him during his afternoon downtime while his younger sister napped. With his own camera, my son could take whatever pictures he wanted whenever and wherever the mood struck him. He was thrilled.
At first, it felt like we were living with the paparazzi. Camera flashes went off at the most random times, and he often peeked around corners trying to discreetly take photos of the family. At one point, I found him outside crouched behind the bushes secretly taking photos of the neighbor kids. This prompted a discussion about photo etiquette and a slightly nervous review of the photos he had taken.
With time, the paparazzi phase faded, and now my son is more mindful about the shots he takes. He captures moments of his day that are completely unknown to me – his solo backyard explorations, silliness with neighbor kids and playtime with his sister. There are also selfies. Lots and lots of selfies, most of which feature obnoxious facial expressions.
My favorite photos are the ones he takes of the family. While I try to be intentional about snapping photos of everyday life, I often fall short in this endeavor. My son, however, is much better at capturing the ordinary moments I often overlook. His candid photos freeze in time our family life in its natural form without any filters, posing or attempts to get the perfect photo. And with my son behind the camera instead of me, we have more photos of mom being part of the family fun, which is a treasure beyond measure.
Like most kids, my son’s photography skills are pretty basic. Most of his photos are too blurry, close, far away or simplistic to be of interest to anyone other than him. But every once in a while I find a gem in his collection of photos, a picture that truly captures the joy of the ordinary. These are the photos that encapsulate our family. They’re a source of joy for his little sister, who asks to see them over and over again. For my husband and me, these pictures give us a priceless peek into the world as my son sees it.
In the midst of a pandemic, it can feel like we’re stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for things to get better. But my son’s photos remind me that we don’t have to put our memories on hold. He embraces life as it is right now and is eager to take photos along the way. And years from now when we look through his photos of 2020, we’ll see the everyday love of our family, the silly antics of a six-year-old and the many attempts at achieving the perfect kid selfie. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate our pandemic life.