One day, years ago, I was caring for two young girls in their home. It was my first time caring for these particular girls. The girls asked me if we could go play in their bedroom. As we were walking down the hall, I noticed the hallway was a “photo gallery” comprised of all sorts of pictures. However, this photo gallery was like no other I had seen before.
All of the photographs were taken of the girls in their natural state. There were no posed shots. There were pictures of them dirty from head to toe, playing in a sandbox just digging away. There were pictures of them from behind, swinging on swings. There were pictures of them speaking to each other with spaghetti all over their faces. There were pictures of them screaming at the top of their lungs, crying, pouting, or just reading a book with a pensive look on their face.
They were all what I would call “real” photographs. It was apparent that the girls did not know that their pictures were being taken. My heart sang as I viewed the pictures. The parents had not interrupted the child’s life to ask them to “pose” or be different than what they were in the moment. I just loved that.
This blog is about “Parenting Gone Unquestioned”. It’s not about “picking apart” every little nuance in life. It is about questioning these things in life that have gone unquestioned. In this instance, what if we start by questioning the desire behind wanting our child to strike a certain pose for pictures. What do we teach a child when we ask them to stop doing what they are doing, and tell them to smile so that we can take their picture?
For one, you could say that we teach them that it is acceptable to interrupt and distract others for self-serving purposes, if you are willing to see it. It’s one thing to interrupt a child’s play to call them to dinner, which is a practical matter. It’s another thing to interrupt their attention just so we may capture what we consider “the perfect pose”.
Where did we get the definition of what a “perfect pose” is anyway? And where did we get the idea that our kids have to look and appear a certain way? Most importantly, what is the intention behind my wanting this so-called “perfect pose?” These are good questions to ask ourselves.
Along those same lines, we also teach our child the art of pretense when we interrupt their play and ask them to smile. We say “smile” and they smile even though they may not feel like smiling, and so they learn to pretend to be something they’re not in the moment. The “fake” smile is then cultivated, a smile that they can call upon “on demand”. How many of you know of your own fake smile that you call upon at certain times in your life? I certainly do.
Lastly, although many may strongly discount this fact, I feel it needs to be stated. The more we “set the tone” (the pattern) in our child’s life wherein the camera is often “on them”, the more demand they will place on others later in life to maintain and give attention to that “look at me” part of themselves. They will then learn to resent others when not given that attention. There can never be humility where there is a demand for self-glorification.
I do want to end by stating that what I’m saying here is not that we shouldn’t take posed pictures of our children. It’s just good to be more mindful of what we teach through our own example. Work to be more mindful in how it might be that we are interrupting our child’s life for the sake of what we as a parent want in the moment. The distraction level in human beings and the elevated level of ego have reached very dangerous levels, so as much as we are able to, let’s not add to that.
As well, our world has become a social media frenzy full of false pretense. Dare to be new by agreeing to not contribute to anything that gives the false impression of what your life is. Deep down, everyone already knows that nobody has a perfect life. We can be the change we wish to see in this world by dropping the pretense and being honest about ourselves and our children.
Exercise for the week: If the need to take pictures of your child arises this week, choose to take some “real” pictures of them, as they are, without them knowing. Or better yet, don’t take any at all and see how many times you were inclined to interrupt their lives to do so. Every little bit helps the world.
Image courtesy of: https://pixabay.com/photos/emoji-fake-mask-portrait-2428737/