In this evocative piece on modern parenting, the author, a well-known blogger and HGTV personality, proposes that parenting has become too precious. She cites one mother who makes a time capsule every year for her child on his birthday, claiming this act exemplifies what is wrong with modern parenthood.
She states: “much of our anxiety stems from this notion that our kids’ childhood must be Utterly Magical; a beautifully documented fairytale in which they reside as center of the universe, their success is manufactured (or guaranteed), and we over-attend to every detail of their lives until we send them off to college after writing their entrance essays.”
Last weekend I noticed a dad at the playground pointing the phone at his round-cheeked progeny in the baby swing, his pony-tailed wife sitting cross-legged on the ground below it. I saw myself in him, my motivation in his action, my love in his devotion. Just a moment earlier I, too, was absorbed in capturing my little cherub doing something cute. As parents we are desperate to create souvenirs of our children while they are young because we know what they do not yet know: childhood is all too fleeting.
My blog is a testament to the things I want to remember. Little things like the line of soft curls quickly sprouting forth from the back of my baby's recently bald head. My older daughter's strong and wiry body, unencumbered by self-consciousness or the judgments of society. The baby's soft and supple belly, those delicate fingers that are always reaching, the way she uses her toes to snuggle.
The truth is that I often feel depleted by parenting, the 24/7 demands, the monotony and the tedium and the relentless hyper vigilance. But my love for them outshines my dread in all ways, always. My love for them fills me up. The hardest days often end with a long scroll through my pictures and videos. I feel silly for using even five minutes of my precious free time to look at pictures of them, but it is what it is, I miss them while they're sleeping.
I know I tend to take parenthood too seriously. There's a big hunk of burning truth in the author's statement: “We get to jettison that manufactured guilt that tells us we aren’t doing enough, when in fact, no generation of parents has ever done more.” Like she says, stress steals joy.
But she sends a distorted message by shaming a fellow mom for making a time capsule of her son's life. Humans have documented since the beginning of time, it's just what we do, and the worth of our documentation is for no one else to judge. Plenty of diaries have disintegrated without anyone caring to read them, existing only for the benefit of the diarist. Other diaries have changed the lives of the diarist's descendants. And then there are diaries like that of Anne Frank and Anaïs Nin which have changed people everywhere, myself included.
Growing up, I made what I called a memory box. I made it for myself and I filled it with artifacts that mean nothing to anybody but me: my first journal,, sheets of my early poetry, the proclamation that I wanted to grow up to be an author, letters passed between my best friend and I; evidence of who I am and will always be, hints and clues that have helped me return to my true self as an adult, regardless of the many outside influences and distractions.
With deep roots, we can grow higher. Time capsules, so to speak, help us get back to our roots. We don't need pictures and the like to know our roots, but they help. Studies have shown that recalling good memories boosts serotonin in the brain, and families with family photos on display in their home are happier. I don't need to know the aforementioned mother to know that she didn't make the time capsule for her son alone, she made it for herself, too. It is her way of coping with the bittersweet impermanence of life, the swift passage of time, and there is immense power in knowing what brings you comfort.
As parents, we give everything we have to make these little people happy. Maybe we're doing too much, as the author suggests. Or maybe we're doing exactly what we need to do. We don't have to be the same as our parents. Historically, each generation is smarter than their predecessors. How else can the human race make progress? And if my children are better parents than I, then I will know I did something right.