Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The case of the well-documented childhood

It really boggles my mind how fast the world changes. Example: 15 years ago, I needed an invite code to start my first blog because server space was limited so only a few new users at a time could be managed. Or 5 years ago: a camera was a discrete object and not part of another techno doodad like a phone/mini computer. 

Fundamentally what this means is the hundreds of pictures taken with the real (digital) camera of the kid as a tiny human pale in comparison to the glut of pictures taken of her sister. I foresee an extended "you love the baby more! Why didn't I get my picture taken all the time?" tantrum some day when she realizes the hugely different number of images. It isn't like we planned this! I never meant to perpetually have a camera within reach, let alone a video camera. It just happened one day and now it is hard to imagine another way of life. 

I suppose this is how anyone living in interesting times feels - a bit dizzy at the rate of change and couldn't things just stay the same for a few minutes so I could catch my breath and in awe that life was possible before. 

These days I think a lot about my grandma and the magnitude of change she saw in her 90ish years. She grew up on a farm with no electricity and a windmill for water but no plumbing. Laundry was an all day process. Mayonnaise was so much work you made it once a year because whipping the oil & having enough eggs to spare was tons of work & a special treat all at once. She went to secretarial college and learned to type when she moved to the city, although I'm pretty sure she never was a secretary or had a typing job. When she had babies, of course they had cloth diapers that got hung out to dry. My great aunt was a very competitive lady & she remembered racing the neighbors to be he first one with a diaper hung out to dry on the line every morning. 

I think about how at the end of her life, my grandma used her typing skills to send emails. She often gave my aunt a hard time for leaving the city to start a small farm because "I worked so hard all those years so you could have a better life and look what you are doing with it! You are undoing all that progress and for what?"

I think about the meticulous photo albums my grandma made of all the interesting things her first three kids did, and how when it came to the fourth, the pictures just stop. There was no time to document four and then more children, not in that same way with images of all the firsts. 

I wonder at a world in which my younger child is far better documented than the elder. What happens if someday there's a third? Will that baby have even more pictures taken because the oldest will have a pocket sized camera/something else? Or would the breaking point hit and hardly any documenting happen?

You might have noticed a lack of baby growth posts in the last...3 months... But I have a digital baby book where I've been collecting snippets to post and then get back to weekly-ish updates. Just you wait. 

I also wonder at the sharing or over-sharing that we are able to do these days. Saturday the baby went to stay with a friend of mine for a couple of hours and I got two photo updates on how she was doing. One picture an hour. We post many of the girls' pictures on a public photo sharing site and about one or two a week to FB to my 300+ friends plus the spouse's 100+ friends all over the place. I have no idea how many people actually look but since over 150 "liked" or commented on our impending baby announcement, that's somewhere near half and a whole lot of people watching closely as the girls get bigger. It's great on some levels that we stay connected to friends far away (and the kid looks at pictures of her friends that their parents post with me these days so it connects her to them too) but it's a bit scary too. Should anyone be that microscopically watched as they grow? It seems to go very badly for celebrity kids to be hyper watched and gossiped about but I wonder how that translates to ordinary kids' lives. 

At any rate, I am going to try to use some time soon to make a proper book of photos and stories for the kid so she gets some documentation of her life like I used to get from flipping through photo albums. It just amazes me that my girls' great great grandmother didn't even have photographs as a child, only 130 years ago and we take oodles every day using technology that would clearly be magic to that same great great grandma... Except somehow it is ordinary now. 


  1. I've been thinking about this as well...

  2. Raegan's file on my computer has nearly 2500 pictures, and that includes a few videos. There are more pics of her separated out from vacations and outings and that's just from her first year. Since turning one, pics have all been separated out by topic and not just her. I do post a lot of pictures some on FB, some on my blog, some on twitter....I did make a wonderful photo book for her first year and will probably continue to do that once a year going through all the thousands of pictures and limiting it to a few hundred. It is a bit overwhelming for sure....