Instagram has got to be one of my favorite tech apps of all time- its easy to use, easy to edit photos on, doesn't leave my pictures looking too "over done" and it makes it easy to share pics on multiple avenues of social media with one click. Saavy moms unite- I love it! Upon closer inspection, though, as I'm documenting our days and sharing life with friends, family, and fellow bloggers alike, there is one thing noticeably missing from my Instagram photos: two of my kids.
Its not just on Instagram either, its everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, my blog- My older girls rarely make an appearance online and when you do see them? Its only when I have their express permission. I hear from blogging friends all the time that their older children are recoiling a bit as well, putting up a stink whenever the iphones come out to snap a photo, asking to preview what gets posted, check the angle of a close-up, and quite often asking for their photos to stay offline completely. For those of us traveling this path with older kids, its worthy of our attention to consider their preferences and understand what's going on. As my offering to the discussion, here's what I've learned so far:
My kids are keenly aware of the subtlety between a life lived with them and a life that has been curated to look good, show off, or develop a brand (as we bloggers like to say), and I think yours are too.
They know the difference between sharing a sweet family moment and hauking a lifestyle on twitter, between celebrating their birthday with honor and pomp and handmade bunting that is all for them, and having a reason to snap photos of mad cake baking and decor skills.
Of course these things are not mutually exclusive (ahem, please note not one, but two ombre cakes in the photo above). Each of us shares special events and accomplishments, adventures and glimpses of beauty throughout our days. The ease of smartphones has caused many of us to capture moments we otherwise might have missed.
I've come to depend on technology to bring a dimension of connectivity to relationships that no generation before mine has ever known. From across the country, I was able to watch my nephew ride his bike for the first time without training wheels, see my sister's classroom in nearly real time as she entered it for her first day of teaching, and I know that my parents thought the lighting in their new Indian restaurant was a little dark and creepy before the waiter had even taken their order. (Its so beautiful, its basically like I'm there, people!)
That's the what we love about this medium, right? That's why we can't seem to get enough.
Social media offers us a glimpse into the lives of loved ones and friends in far flung corners of the earth. We get to be there, in a weird digital, not quite kind of way. It unites our common experience, enlarges our conversations, gives us insight into worlds our feet have never traveled to, and can even ignite a passion within us to champion causes that prick our hearts. Social media gives us a way bigger village and even, in many cases, (I cringe as I type, but I'm talking to you my fellow bloggers), a platform.
However, the part our kids play in this social media world reminds me of when our family gathered for big dinners during my childhood. As cousins we would create elaborate shows- knock knock jokes, sketches in grandma's wool coat and pearls...we relished in the oohs and aahs and obligitory giggles and cheers from the rest of the family.
Social media has just extended the couch.
More adults have piled in to see the show and for those kids with a flair for the dramatic, or who happen to be having a particularly outgoing, extroverted kind of day, it can be a whole lot of fun.
But what happens when the party is over, and with tummies full, families load back in cars headed home? What happens to the andecdotes shared on the long drive home, to the burps and resulting laughter, to the photo captured in the moonlight of the sleepy toddler who has never looked more angelic? What happens to the conversations about literature read aloud over a flashlight in the backseat, or to your husband's comment on politics sparked by listening to NPR along the way? What happens to the Journey anthem belted with bravery into the wind while the windows are rolled way down and you all launch into a stargazing hunt for Venus overhead?
There are moments in a family that should be only yours. There are stories you must tell, messages you must weave and art you must craft in no other place but the very hearts of your children.
Those moments will be quiet and personal and only yours. They will be times of delight and joy, or they very well may be the times that stretch you, exhaust you and make you weary- but they are the very times that will build integrity into your children's inner lives and knit you together as a family. Our children need this, and honestly, so do you. Because when nothing is ours alone, and when nothing is just theirs...when what we choose to show off of family life is all there is, our real lives will be left wanting.
As my children grow, they are telling me they want a lot more of just us and a lot less of all of you, and it is my great delight to give them just that.
So until they tell me otherwise, in my public life, its very likely I'll look like a mother of only two, or you might just see the back of two tween heads for a while- and I wouldn't have it ANY other way. Someday they'll be ready to share their own story, but until then, I'm going to guard it as it grows with everything I've got.
With grace and hope,