My barely 3-year-old daughter was having her Hanukkah show at school. And by “show” I mean it was about 15 3-year-olds singing about a potato latke. Half of them were attempting the “dance moves,” while the other half were either frozen with fear or screaming “hi mom/dad!” while waving furiously. It was the cutest hot mess I’d ever seen in my life—at least, from what I saw of it.
Like everyone else sitting in the audience, I was getting it on video with my iPhone. My husband couldn't make it because of work, all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins live in another state, and that performance was something I’d want to have forever. But forever stopped about halfway through the performance when my iPhone stopped filming due to lack of memory. Panic set in, I started desperately deleting things in hopes of freeing up enough memory to at least get the big finish at the end of the song when the potato latke ends up in someone’s belly. No luck, the song ended, and the applause started. My friends had filmed it, but obviously, everyone focuses in on their own kid, and while I have affection for all the kids, Nana and Papa don’t want to see little Lucas picking his nose through the first two verses of the song. But right then it hit me: the real shame is that I was there, live in the moment, and still missed it. And I didn't have to watch it through a 4.7-inch rectangle, I could’ve seen it the way it was meant to be seen, through my own two eyes.
With the invention of smartphones and the advancements in smartphone cameras, we’re seeing the world through their screens. It’s like this desperate need to capture everything we see, especially with kids. I was guilty of it clearly. If my daughter Lily was doing something cute I’d start filming, but soon she would realize it, get annoyed and stop doing it. So ultimately she’s not happy, I’m not happy, and neither are Elsa, Anna, and Ariel who were having a lovely tea party and before I became the paparazzi. Everybody misses out. My husband recently went to a Bruce Springsteen concert, and he said at one point he looked around and maybe 80 percent of the crowd was filming on their smartphones. Don’t you go to a concert to experience the show live and not through that same small rectangle you look at for the hourly forecast on your weather app? Not to mention, even at 66-years-old, you could bounce a quarter off Bruce’s butt. Personally, I’d put my damn phone down and enjoy. Of course, there’s a time and a place to capture certain moments on your phone. But for me, those times and places are fewer than before. I’m trying to enjoy what life has to offer in the moment, instead of worrying about having an electronic version of it for later. Some moments are better stored as memories in your brain than megabytes in your phone. While I may not be able to relive the potato latke song, when the Passover show rolls around and they sing the matzoh song, forget the rectangle, I’m leaving my phone in my pocket and picking up where I left off enjoying life.