Lose the Guilt and Start Recording

Last month, I gave a talk to a group of women on how to capture your family’s stories with video. I had planned to give them tips on how to interview their parents and elder family members. At least, that’s what I thought they wanted to know. For some, that was the case.

But for most, what they really wanted to know was how to go about capturing their lives right NOW. There was a lot of laughter and self-deprecating humor around the issue of guilt, and not doing enough to record their children's lives as the years passed by too quickly. As we talked, I realized I was in the exact same boat as these women, and wondered, what happened? I used to take pictures and videos of my kids all the time. Did they stop being cute?

When they were babies, it was pretty easy. They sat in their high chair or bouncy seat or stroller. I had a captive audience. And since we didn’t ever go very far, I had time on my hands to use my camera, an activity unto itself.

Today life is very different, as I suspect it is for these women too. My kids are constantly on the go. When they are not zooming all over the house (they literally bounce off the walls, the couch, the stairs…), they are off to soccer practice or a friend’s house. There just isn’t the same kind of time. And yet, upon returning from our recent vacation, where presumably there’s lots of downtime, I came back with a pitiful number of pictures.

So if time wasn’t the main issue, what was it?

I realized that for me, it was the evil of perfectionism. I have a great camera that shoots beautiful video, but it’s big and bulky. I don’t always want to lug it around. I’m worried it might break. And there’s so many bells and whistles that it becomes a hassle just to be ready to film.

So what is the solution? How do we continue to make sure we capture these moments in time, without the guilt? Here are a few suggestions that might help:

  • Stop trying to make it perfect! Use what you have, when you have it, in the moment. (If it happens to be a cell phone, so be it.)
  • Take advantage of captive moments. (Waiting at the doctor’s office? Pull out your phone and do a quick interview.) Here’s a sample of what I did the other day to record a funny story that happened to my son.
  • This video is not even close to perfect – the lighting isn’t great, it’s shaky, and the water makes noise. But I had a captive participant, and it’s a great little snippet that I now have to share with him when he's older and wonders what he was like as a 5-year-old.
  • Have your cell phone videos automatically upload to a site like Flickr or Dropbox or your own personal blog. It's a great way to curate all of your short videos and it will feel like you're creating a digital scrapbook.
  • Remember that writing is another great way to record memories. Buy a small spiral notebook at the drugstore, keep it by your bedside or on your desk, and when something funny or memorable happens on any given day, write about it. (I keep a journal for each of my boys. It is sometimes months in between before I write another entry - but I know that when I write something, it's usually pretty funny or momentous - and it's always fun to look back on.)
  • When your child is old enough, give them your old camera or phone and let them make movies. As I write this, my 8-year-old son Adam and his friend are in the other room, making silly movies of themselves. It may not be earth-shattering pieces of young wisdom, but it will be great for them to see when they're in high school and remember what they were like as 3rd graders. (And if he keeps doing it, he might eventually record the people who never seem to be on video - his parents!)

Consider why you are preserving these memories. Is it to pass down family history? To record for posterity? Nostalgia? So your children can know what they were like when they were younger? It may be for all of these reasons. But whatever your reason might be, keep that at the forefront of your mind, lose the guilt, and just start recording.

  1. September 14, 2012 at 10:51

    As the mom of a 28 and 31 year old, I love looking at all the old photos. I too felt guilty that I didn't take more and especially videos, which admittedly were much more complicated to make in the pre-iPhone and iPad day. But I'm amazed at how many photos I did take even when I thought then that I was a failure. Oh, the crazy stories we make up about ourselves!!! Bryan is adorable!! And it sounds like he has a great teacher!! Thanks Debbie!

    • September 14, 2012 at 11:45

      Thanks for sharing, Anne! I was just explaining to my son the other day how we used to have to just hope and pray that it was a good picture when we took it, and then wait for it to be developed days later. I could tell he couldn't even comprehend that concept!! Glad you have great memories to look back on of your now adult children - which I'm sure they very much appreciate too.