Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo Frenzy

I like kids. But enough already. When did it become OK to share every photo of your grandchildren with people you barely know?

I recently received an email from a friend which attached pictures of her granddaughters. During a two-week period, I got 60 photos relating to Halloween. One set of pictures was taken at a pumpkin patch. The second set showed their adventures with trick-or-treating. Whoop-de-do.

People used to say that we should always "Know your audience." That seemed to imply it was best to share information with someone who might be interested.

When I was in college, there were two views of parenthood: (Group 1): Have kids early and figure out what to do with them later and (Group 2): Career-focused folks who wanted to give the marriage a test run and see if it stuck. I was in Group 2. We used to get together with Group 2 friends and DISCUSS things: books, cooking, movies, future plans, etc. Once our friends migrated from Group 2 to Group 1, all they could talk about was diaper changes, constipation, runny noses and embarrassing mishaps. Those of us who stayed in Group 2 vowed that if we got around to having kids, we would NEVER morph into the Group 1 gang.  But quite soon, most group transfers changed nevertheless, spoke only in monosyllables and only about the kiddies.  I always found that a little sad that they had relinquished actual conversation for the latest method to remove spit up from upholstered furniture.

Now those same Group 1 people have become grandparents, again focused on their grandchildren. When I was little, grandparents held a different position. They were sweet, patient and to be respected. They did not live to spoil us, although they did innocently and discreetly. They were to be visited and to share holidays and special occasions. A night spent at the grandparents was beyond special -- mostly because it was not a common occurrence, which kept it all the more unique.

Perhaps television is one of the reasons for the changing role of grandparents. Instead of talking to their grandparents and actual saying or hearing interesting things, now visits with grandparents often center around the television. You may talk during the commercials or when the show is over. No one must interrupt the program.

Also, a program like "America's Funniest Home Videos" has elevated events like spit-up, poop and toilet training, bringing such topics into our front rooms. "AFV" proves that there is money in turning children into characters doing stupid things. Send in the video -- no matter how private it might be -- and show the entire viewing audience that you are an indulgent parent of a less-than-stellar child. You might win enough money to make it worth your while.

I also blame the digital camera for the lack of discretion shown by parents/grandparents. In the "old" days, taking a photo required a little effort. You needed to pick a situation that warranted photographs -- birthday, Easter Sunday finery, family around the Christmas tree -- and then take a few photos to record the occasion for the future. It was also a little more costly: you had to take the film to be developed.

Now parents/grandparents take pictures of Susie waking up, Susie at breakfast, Susie getting dressed, Susie going to day care, Susie at nap time, Susie and her friends, Susie asleep. It's wonderful that the folks want to take such precious photos. Kids grow up way to quickly. But these souvenirs belong in a photo album, picture frame or hanging on the wall. For goodness sake, I don't want to look at digital photos stored on someone's telephone when I happen to encounter the grandmother in Wal-Mart's parking lot! Most photos are far more fascinating to the person who knows the subject of the picture.

So, please, grandparents out there, this year evaluate whether your holidays photos need to go to everyone in your email address book. Perhaps share them with someone who might actually care. 

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