Put Down the Camera…and Slowly Back Away

I recently attended the last Mass of the school year at my kids’ Catholic school.  For those of you not familiar with the Catholic elementary school culture – each week the whole student body attends Mass together.  One of the classes “leads” the Mass by doing the readings, bringing up the gifts, serving, carrying up the processional cross, etc.

This week, it was the 4 year old Kindergarten class that finally got its turn.  They can barely (if at all) read so the readings were done one sentence at a time – and, I suspect, memorized.  The typical Kindergarten Mass characters were present including:

  • The girl who doesn’t believe the microphone will pick up her voice, so she shouts her line.
  • The shorty whose hairline is barely visible above the top of the ambo.
  • The boy who forgets how to pronounce at least one of the words on his construction paper mounted sheet.
  • The teacher frantically motioning that the children holding the psalm response poster board have it upside down.

It may not have been the highest of liturgy, but it was cute – and there certainly is something moving about watching 15 Kindergarteners belt out every word to “I Love You, Lord” and know (because I know their music teacher) that they understand it to be a song of praise to our God.

What’s not so moving:  15 parents in the back of church running around with video and digital cameras trying to capture every cute moment for posterity.

I have little kids – I have the boy who shouted into the mic when it was his turn to read part of the 1st reading last year, and I anticipate my daughter will be one who holds the poster upside down (she can be a little ditzy) – so I certainly understand the desire to capture the moment.

But at what cost?

Why do we feel like we need to pull out the camera not only at all the major events and milestones, but at every single event where our kids do anything at all?  And what are we missing from behind the lens?

We spent Memorial Day weekend the same way we do every year – at a cookout at my parent’s house with the whole gang – family & friends, kids & adults.  We listened to the Indy 500 on the radio, played bean bag toss.  The kids ate one too many cookies, and the adults drank one too many beers.  All was right with the world.

Then, while the kids were running in the lawn playing some made-up race/chase/tag game, my mom asks the fateful question:

Did you bring your camera?

No, I didn’t.  I forgot it – no, more than that – I didn’t even think to bring it.  And I realized in that moment, and as I sat at the 4 year old Kindergarten Mass, that I didn’t want it.  I don’t want to be the mom who is so focused on getting a picture that she misses the moment.

Not my family…because I forgot my camera

I’ve been that mom in the past.  I’ve spent so much time trying to get my daughter to “smile nicely” for a picture (she inherited my fake camera smile) that I missed the moments of her genuine deep laughter.  I’ve watched my son sing praise songs with his whole heart and soul – a truly powerful witness to the faith of a child – not “in real life”, but through a camera lens instead.  I’ve interrupted moments of creativity and inspiration (and probably real learning) because I wanted a different pose or just a different angle to get the perfect picture.

And I’m done.  It’s time to put down the camera.

Do they know that if they move the camera out of the way, they can see better?

That’s hard for me because I’m a scrapbooker – and any good scrapbook artist (yes, we call ourselves artists because it makes playing with paper and glue feel classier) knows that a good picture is the most important part of a layout.  And the most fun layouts to create are the everyday moments – blowing bubbles, bath time, a day at the park, etc.

I love taking pictures of my kids and capturing the moments of their childhood because I know that those moments are fleeting – and I think I’ve been holding out hope that if I can get a good picture (or video) maybe I can slow down time just a little and hang on to these moments just a little longer.

But I can’t – and instead of hanging on to the moments – I think I’m missing the full experience because I’m watching my children grow up through a digital lens instead of in high def 3D right in front of me.

That doesn’t mean I won’t still take pictures. I will – especially of the big milestones and events – but I’m going to be more careful not to get so caught up in the camera lens that I miss the moment.  And I’m swearing here and now that I’ll never, ever take pictures during Mass…well, unless my kid is receiving a sacrament for the first time AND there’s no one else who could do it for me.


  1. Rebecca Hamilton · June 5, 2012

    If I could take photos like these, I would never put the camera down, either!

  2. Jane Kostelc · June 9, 2012

    Good for you! Couldn’t agree more. Ask Chris why there aren’t pictures of him (except first day of school EVERY year).

  3. Pingback: Sacrament of Love | The Catholic Realist

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