It was a Saturday morning and we were enjoying a few hours on the beach. I had a cappuccino in my hand, the husband was building a sandcastle with Stanley, and Wilfred was bashing the sand with a spade. The sun was warm, but not uncomfortable, and there was a gentle breeze to keep us cool. It was just as lovely as it sounds – and as I sat there and watched my family, I felt pretty pleased with my lot.
Bored of bashing the sand, Wilfred sat up and thought for a moment, clearly making a decision about his next move. I saw him glance towards the water and mentally prepared myself to chase a quick-as-lightning baby towards the shore. But clocking his older brother, he decided to crawl in that direction instead. After all, there are few things more satisfying in life than knocking over your brother’s sandcastle.
Much to my surprise, he stopped just short of the sandcastle and decided to sit next to his brother and watch him filling the bucket – and noticing he was there, Stanley turned to his baby brother and smiled.
But instead of keeping my eyes clamped on this beautiful little moment between two brothers, I instinctively reached out to grab my phone. It wasn’t at the end of my reach and I had two choices. Dig around in a beach bag to find it and risk missing the moment completely – or sacrifice the photo and make sure I captured every second in my mind.
I made the decision to sacrifice the photo – and at that very moment, Stanley lowered his head and gently kissed his brother’s forehead. I’d never seen him do this before and I felt my heart swelling in my chest as I watched such a sweet little moment. But within a split second, it was over – and Stanley was back to shoveling sand into the bucket as his brother watched.
If I’d made the decision to find my phone, I would have completely missed it. I would have turned back round to see that the moment had passed. I would probably have clicked away anyway, thinking I’d caught a tender moment between two brothers as they sat together on the sand.
I would have had no idea I had missed the most beautiful moment of all in my attempts to remember this morning on the beach.
When we’d got home, showered off, fed the boys their lunch, and got them into bed for their lunchtime nap, I sat down on the sofa and thought about that sweet little moment between the boys. And that is when it suddenly dawned on me that I must have missed so many more moments in my attempts to document their lives.
I’m the first to admit that I like taking photographs. I am addicted to Instagram and complete a challenge to take at least one photo every day for the Project 365 app on my phone. But the truth is that I usually take a lot more than one, it’s probably more than 20. Every single day. And I genuinely feel naked and panicked if I don’t have my phone, as I have developed a very real fear that if I don’t photograph a moment, I will forget it.
And I don’t want to forget a second. Not a single one.
But here is the silly thing. That memory of two little brothers on the beach is so much clearer than any photograph I have taken. It is burnt on my mind and replays several times a day – especially when one of the boys has clonked the other over the head with a toy and I need to be reminded that they like each other.
I remember the way Wilfred looked up as Stanley touched his head. I remember the expression on his face was one of familiarity, rather than shock. I remember the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore. I remember the feeling of the sun beating down on my shoulders as I watched. I remember the moment just afterwards, when their attention turned back to the sandcastles – but I stayed frozen to the spot as I processed what I’d just seen. I remember their Dad glancing at me to check I’d seen it too. And I remember feeling such relief that I didn’t try and find that bloody phone.
So I have made a vow to take less photos of the children. I won’t give up my photography habit completely, of course, but I am determined to cut down. When these special moments unfold, I want my instinctive reaction to be to sit and watch them, committing them to memory, and drinking up every single second. I don’t want to miss them in a desperate scramble for my phone.
From now on, I want my eyes to witness these moments. And I’m looking forward to seeing what I have been missing.