Instead, I can reach for my phone and watch a great few moments of video of the young pandas at the panda research facility in Chengdu, China, chasing each other up in the bamboo trees. I visited with my daughter a couple of years ago, and we got there really early in the morning when
Instead, I can reach for my phone and watch a great few moments of video of the young pandas at the panda research facility in Chengdu, China, chasing each other up in the bamboo trees. I visited with my daughter a couple of years ago, and we got there really early in the morning when the pandas in the “adolescent” enclosure were unbelievably active. I have the pandas in my pocket, preserved in their exuberance; I don’t have my children.
There are times when I’m grateful that my older children, at least, grew up in an era of what now seems like very limited technology — though when my oldest was in high school right around 2000, there were already endless debates about violent video games and the dangers of internet chat rooms (remember those?).
I didn’t have to worry about social media when my older kids were young, and I guess I’m not sorry they grew up without smartphones. And yes, thank you, we all managed just fine without text messaging; we found one another when we needed to meet up and we managed play dates and friendships; I can sound just as righteous as any other person my age on how those were the good old low-tech days.
But I can’t help it — I would like to retrofit their childhoods with a smartphone for me. I have video envy. It’s especially strong now that video technology is readily available and easy to use. It leaves you with not the complicated reels of the home movies I grew up with, or the big videocassettes that my contemporaries were making when our children were little, but with high quality action videos in your pocket, memories of private characteristic moments that you can look at any time you want, without video players or projectors.
Of course I can look at photos, and I do. And I can read the accounts we wrote of family trips, and doing that very definitely brings back the children as they were. I’m grateful for all the scrapbooks that we kept and for everything that helps me, every now and then in my sentimental maternal moments, remember those children.
I enjoy looking at the people they are today, and thinking about how these nice young adults were babies and toddlers and school children, that we had years and years in which they got up every morning (or sometimes in the middle of the night) and were immediately and reliably themselves. I remember them and I know them. But sometimes I think I would give anything for a few minutes of video of that day to day life, to watch them, when they were young, being themselves.
I know all about the risks of phone addiction and “distracted parenting,” and believe me, I am guilty of my share, even now with grown-up children. I understand the way that the phone sucks at you, calls to you, promising you your email or the headlines or just tickling you with a sudden desire to check whether the flight is still on time or they’re still predicting snow for tomorrow. I’m not without a certain nostalgia for the days when it would have been inconceivable to sit around a table with the people you love most and realize that they’re all checking their phones, just under the table. I can shake my head and cluck over it all with the best of them. But oh, I wish I wish I wish I could have had that phone, way back when, so that I could now pull out the one I carry in my pocket and visit my children when they were little.
And I hope that all the parents I quizzically observed decades ago have now digitized their best video moments; their children are by definition as old as mine, and they’ve certainly earned the right to those pleasures. If someone out there happened to have a video that captured one of my kids on screen, I would love a chance to hold them in my pocket and replay the memories, even if I don’t really want to rewatch every minute of those soccer games.