Attention-seeking kids and the digital era

There’s a line from the original Cat in the Hat book that my husband and I recite whenever one of our children wants us to watch what they are doing — however silly, and however many times we’ve seen it done before.

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!”

It’s the part in the book where the Cat in the Hat is balancing on the ball, holding up a bunch of stuff — including the fish bowl — and he wants Sally and her brother to watch him add more items. For a cat on a ball, it’s impressive, but with our kids, they aren’t balancing dishes and cake and a boat and a rake. No, they want us to watch them do mundane things, like dance to Thriller, or run around the house in their underpants, or solve an alphabet puzzle. That was exciting stuff when they were two; at ages six and four, not so much.

Still, as dutiful parents, we watch, and take pictures, and sometimes even record video.

"Look at me! In the bathtub! With a bubble face!" Every moment of childhood is now easily captured, thanks to camera phones.

So, it’s no wonder our daughter has decided that filmed evidence conveys merit, and she has taken it one step further. She has recently started asking us to take pictures of her creations, no matter how ridiculous they are. Behold her squishie pyramid:

Awwww, a squishie pyramid! Just one example of how every facet of childhood, no matter how mundane, is in danger of being recorded for posterity.

Yes, it’s eight squishies stacked into a little pyramid. When she asked me to take a picture of this, I laughed.

Me: “Seriously? I’m not taking a picture of that.”

Avery: “Why not? It’s a squishie pyramid. Aren’t they cute?”

Blake: “You should take a picture of it, and then blog about all the lame things kids want their parents to take pictures of.”

And so I did. Sigh. But it got me thinking. When I was a kid my parents pulled out the camera, sure — on family vacations and at birthdays and Christmastime. But there were long stretches that zoomed by, unrecorded. Like a Super 8 film that goes splotchy in parts, my memory is the imperfect lens through which I view most of my childhood. It’s not a bad thing, really, and lets me look back at the era in awe and wonder.

I often wonder if today’s new standard of recording every accomplishment, however insignificant (example: the squishie pyramid), isn’t somehow cheapening our kids’ important milestones. I also wonder if we’re raising a self-absorbed generation that’s going to think it’s amazing for just flashing a smile. Shouldn’t things should be recorded for a reason, not just because they are? My daughter may well look back on this and say: “Why did you blog about my squishie pyramid, but not my solo in the spring choir performance?” Exactly.

How about you? Do you find yourself grabbing for the camera every time your kid strikes a pose, or builds something with Lego? Is this a good thing, or not?

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