I'm going to ask you a series of questions and I want you to assume that each one is prefixed with: 'When we were kids, did our parents...". I've provided my answers, too, in case you're interested.
... worry about creating special family-time memories for us to cherish in future? NOPE
... manufacture situations or conversations in order to nurture our mutual relationships? NAH
... fret about our emotional or psychological well-being? ERM... WHAT?
... take photos of us while we ate/climbed a tree/sat on the dog/slept? NO, AND THAT LAST ONE'S JUST WEIRD
... obsess about what we ate/watched/saw/breathed in/dressed in/read/scored in our exams? MAYBE IT'S JUST ME, BUT RECKON NOT
... just get on with it ('it' being life)? YUP
Now that I've scientifically proved (to myself at least) just how much more relaxed our parents' generation was about our relationships - and recording them - let's have a look at the mental snapshots I've retained of my childhood - without photographic or video prompts.
My sister trying to strangle me as I make it first up our new garden slide; hiding behind the sofa during Dr Who; my granddad snoring all through Star Wars; holidaying in a smallish caravan with an entire other family, including their giant, damp dog; my dad getting a car phone the size of a dictionary; the suitcase full of all our clothes blowing off the roof rack on the way to Devon (and having to borrow other, smaller children's clothes for a whole week); being left in the car with a packet of crisps and a bottle of pop while our parents were in the pub; eating spaghetti at one of only two restaurants we ever went to; my raucous 18th birthday party.
How did my parents help me remember these stand-out events? Well, other than giving me an 18th birthday gift of an album of photos of their own treasured moments of my childhood (birth, christening, baby sister, blah blah), they didn't. My childhood memories are different to their memories of my childhood. And I defy anyone to produce a photograph of me in the car while the suitcase is flying off the roof rack, anyway. But that's not to say I don't love that album.
My point is, they were far less obsessed than we - and my kids - are now with recording those great or memorable moments, and far less able to because they rarely took a camera out. When they did it a) weighed a ton; b) got jammed regularly; c) ran out of film; d) produced mostly unusable photos; and e) discouraged them so much that they lost interest in taking pictures altogether, hence the utter absence of an 18th birthday photo album for my younger sister.
Now, it's all changed: everyone, including children, seems to have smartphones to record or photograph each and every moment, however special or - sometimes - inane. The perfect opportunity, you would think, for me to capture special mum-daughter moments for posterity. To be honest, though, I rarely take pictures of my kids.
Why? My eldest, slap bang in the middle of being a teenager, sabotages every photo we try to take of her by only posing with her tongue out. She even pokes her tongue out in selfies. Getting her to pose for a photo like a normal person? Best done slyly, with a paparazzi-length lens.
My youngest, who's 10, takes endless repetitive selfies that use up all the storage on my phone and her iPod. She (regularly) films herself doing something in front of me, then makes me watch it back because I 'looked away for a moment and didn't see it properly'. She insists I download the selfies and videos on to my laptop so they are safely stored. Getting her to pose for a photo? I don't need to.
Some of my friends use their Facebook accounts as virtual photo albums - or so it seems. They post pictures of their shiny children on day trips and holidays; of their children triumphantly clutching sports' trophies, musical instruments and exam results; of their eldest tenderly holding the hands of their youngest; of them performing in plays or accepting the Nobel Prize for Good Behaviour.
I have photos like that but I'm wary of posting them. My youngest might love it, but my eldest would object, and I can relate: it's the modern day equivalent of our parents carrying around a stack of photos of us and showing them to every single person they knew every time they saw them.
So, like my parents did, I've been squirreling away a great photo of my kids every now and then since they were babies and putting them in a series of good old-fashioned albums (you know, the ones you store on a shelf, not in a cloud).
I've labelled each picture with a caption so they can make sense of them in future: 'Lola's birthday'; 'Edie is born'; 'On holiday in Bournemouth'; 'Edie has bird flu'; 'Edie breaks her arm'; 'Edie breaks her arm (again)'. Births of cousins and friends; family parties; holidays; new pets; playdates; trips to A&E, it's all there, thanks to my smart phone. I've dispensed with a camera completely. Why bother? I've always got my phone with me.
Unlike my parents, they won't be getting the albums when they're 18. No, I'm really creating these albums for myself - and I'm anticipating long afternoons of browsing through them when I'm old enough to be confined to an armchair. I'm pretty certain my kids won't be interested enough in my version of their childhood memories - or agree to look at anything that isn't on a back-lit screen - until they're well into their forties.
By which time I'll be ensconced in the armchair and can spend their visits enjoying the pictures - and my memories - with them. As for them, they'll make their own, just like I did.Suggest a correction