My sister was the first of us five kids to graduate from college. It was the 1970s, and I was in attendance to see her walk across the stage. Good thing, too: It turned out that although my father was shooting pictures, he was doing so, it was later discovered, without film. The only pictures salvaged from that day were a few photos I snapped on my crummy camera. (The kind with the replaceable flashcube on the top — remember those?)
My sister was a little bit ticked, but apparently she survived.
Flash forward, so to speak. I watched the young children pouring out of our elementary school on their last day of classes recently, and a horde of photographers, in the form of parents, were climbing over each other in an effort to get the all-perfect shot — or 50 — of their little darlings exiting the school. There was no risk of a camera malfunction involving these grade-schoolers!
My brother aptly refers to such mob scenes of camera-toting parents as "the mom-and-paparazzi." They are everywhere. I should be used to it by now, but I still marvel when I see them at neighborhood block parties snapping their cameras as their young child comes down the slide or jumps in a bouncy house. Are there really not enough "all about me" moments already? Are they really going to keep and look at all these photos anyway?
Personally, I forgot my camera for my son’s eighth-grade graduation last week. My bad. But then again, I questioned why there was a formal ceremony at all to congratulate kids for essentially showing up every day, so what do I know? Yes, I also stand in awe of the multigenerational parties — replete with piles of gifts — commonly held by parents for their child’s high-school graduation. True, my friends and I had lots of parties when we graduated from high school. It’s just that our parents had no part of them and we would have thought it was really weird if they had.
I digress. OK, I also admit I like having photos of my four kids that tell the story of our lives. Yes, I frame some and put them around my house. I even have a few photos of my children getting onto a school bus or out of school on their last day. Though typically these are sent to me by a member of the mom-and-paparazzi who happen to snap my child in the process of getting to theirs, knowing my child’s "achievement" would not otherwise be chronicled.
Really full disclosure: I keep a pretty cool series of scrapbooks. But while rarely a page might feature just one child, my goal in these books is to tell the general story of our life (begin ital) as a family (end ital), not just to chronicle every move, from mundane to supposedly magnificent, of the individuals in it.
Anyway, I know, I know, snapping a few too many photos of our kids walking out of elementary school isn’t a terrible parental infraction, and taking pictures is just so much easier than it used to be. Maybe I’m just grumpy because it would never have occurred to my mother to be waiting for me on the last day (or any day) of school — with or without a camera.
But I survived intact.
So still, I have to think that, just maybe, the mom-and-paparazzi regularly treating their kids like little celebrities is one more symptom of a much larger "all about me" problem in our culture.
(Betsy Hart hosts the "It Takes a Parent" radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. Reach her through hartmailbox-mycolumn(at)yahoo.com.)