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I Resolve to Stop Being My Child's Paparazzo

We're the only ones on the icy hill and she yells, "Wahoooo!" as our sled speeds over the bumpy snow, further into the unbroken surface than any of the other tracks, before tipping us lazily onto the frozen ground. She calls the hazy red sky an "ocean of sun" and finds the pure white half moon behind cloud wisps. Our eyes are fixed on the heavens and just a second later, they're scanning the earth for tracks.

We find two sizes of dog prints: one small enough for us to say with confidence, "A dog's been here." And the other so strangely large that we pretend they're bear prints (and I scan the thin woods around us just to make sure no massive blobs of black are bumbling about—just to make sure these truly are the footprints of a neighborly Saint Bernard).

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Then she asks me to be the bear and I try on several low-as-I-go voices and she talks with me as though I have always been a giant friendly bear with magical speech. She asks, "Bear, are you big enough to catch the moon?" I stretch and reach and jump for that milk white crescent, then say "Got it" and show her the clump of snow in my mittens. I call it the moon, clumsily smushed between pretend bear paws and for a moment, wonder washes across her face at the delicious thought that her very own bear has captured the moon and crushed it to snowy bits. Then she turns her back and trudges up that hill again for more speed, more bumps, more tipping onto crunchy snow.

I look around me, breathe deeply, and call on all of my senses to do the work of remembering so that I can hold onto this joy forever. So that I never lose this moment—a moment I've only just met but is already so precious to me. And I wonder ...

If I knew I'd have no memory of this moment, could I enjoy it just as much? Could I fully and completely soak my heart in its sweetness if I knew that it would vanish just as quickly as her ocean of sun? My impulse is to capture it by taking pictures—to literally take this memory captive so that it's fully mine and is in no danger of escaping. So I pull out my phone and do what I know she hates—I take her picture.

My New Year's resolution this year? ... to allow experiences with my children to belong to just them—just them and me.

Another impulse tells me to share this moment with someone (as if she's not a someone?), to send the pictures to my husband, to grandparents, to aunts and to uncles. So I do. When she turns her back again, I draft a quick text and send the pictures off. I take a video of our next ride down the hill and send that as well. I hear the familiar ding of a reply and read it. Then another and another.

And just like that, the moment I so longed to capture has come and gone, and I feel like I missed it. I’m no longer my 3-year-old’s magical bear. Instead, I’m her personal paparazzo. And she feels every bit of that unfortunate transformation.

Why couldn't I let that hour on the hill just be ours? Hers and mine. Why did I have to give it away?

Why couldn't it just be lovely and not have to stay lovely forever? Why couldn't the moment be good enough?

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Why, when my boys do something funny/cute/sweet, do I feel like I have to make it last forever? This morning, as Louie slept beautifully on my chest, why did I waste time wishing that I had my camera rather than being fully present in that rare silent moment with my son?

So my New Year's resolution this year?

To take fewer pictures. To take fewer videos. To share less. To instead allow these moments to just ... be moments. Instead, to allow experiences with my children to belong to just them—just them and me.

Because my job that day on the hill wasn't to make memories that would last a lifetime or to take pictures we could frame for the gallery wall.

My job was to be a bear ... her bear who can catch the moon.

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