For the first 12 months of my son’s life, I made a photobook of each month. A real, actual printed book highlighting the activities and daily goings on in his first weeks and months on this planet. The day of his birth, his first hike, first Thanksgiving with his relatives, meeting his great-grandmother, morning snuggles and sniffs from the dogs, bath time and the many, many grins with smeared peas or bananas or beets on his face, hands, head, chest, highchair, walls, windows, floor, and those dried food bits are likely stuck there still. There are exactly 12books and two years later, no more. I don’t even know if I’ve printed a photo on his first birthday or not. The many thousands of photos – because yes we’re dealing with digital photos, mind you – are lodged on my phone and in the nebulous cloud.
In his first year, I took a long maternity leave so I had time to cull through my phone during naps and late night nursing and, thanks to a photo app, it was easy to click, drag, and presto! order a book. I was so dang proud that in the era of all-digital I was making a baby book. But something changed after that first year, and the whole concept of having time to sort through photos and get them printed has fled this house and is replaced with toys spread all over the floor, piles of laundry, and enough cardboard box spaceships to likely impress NASA.
After that first year, with a kiddo who was mobile and keen on roaming I was no longer able to work from home or cart him to work for a meeting like when he was a snoozing infant, content and not able to hurl crayons across a room or attempt to drive the brewery’s forklift. Time has become compressed and while I’m still taking tons of photos of my son, the actual act of printing them has dropped in priority. These days, I’m just trying to keep up. And these days, my son is keenly aware of what I’m doing and being on my phone, even if it is to document these toddler years (and, to check an email or 29), upsets him. He says: put down your phone, don’t work! That’s the whole myth about our smartphones and laptops. We working moms feel like of course we can do this work task, print these photos while still playing in the yard and launching a little one into outer space.
There’s also a myth that thanks to our cameras on our phones that we have to capture each moment. True, there are so many good ones — too many, really — but am I filtering my connection to my son with a phone? Yet, hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t want to look at his books and talk about when he was a baby. So perhaps sometime, sometime soon, I’ll be able to make another book, only less ambitious. Instead of month by month, perhaps I’ll go year by year, or cardboard spaceship launch to Mars.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.