Note: This column appears in the 4/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/30 issue of the Peoria Times
There has been a running joke in our family for years involving videos from Idaho. My uncle –- then stationed in Idaho for the Air Force -– and my aunt had just given birth to their first kids, twin girls. Armed with a camcorder and the anxiety that everyone back east was missing everything, my uncle countered by recording everything. When my aunt and uncle eventually returned east for good, our entire family was subsequently treated to hours-long, sound-free, grainy footage of my cousins doing mundane things amidst the appealing aesthetic of the flat and empty Idaho landscape. Having to watch those videos again is now a threat at family functions aimed at anyone who gets out of hand, which usually ends up being, ironically, one of the co-stars of those famous movies. They drink wine now.
I was so young when those videos surfaced, but even I have a faint memory of their monotony. Now, years later, I can sympathize with my uncle totally. Here we are, my wife and I, new parents and the rest of our family is across the country. How is everyone supposed to know how our little one is doing without aggressive and frequent documentation?
The medium has changed, of course. The process is less intrusive in that we won’t need to gather the entire family around in one place to observe footage of our little one’s progress. But it’s also much broader. Between online picture albums, texts, instant videos and iChats, there are plenty of ways to make our family back east aware that our hopefully-soon-to-be-daughter can army crawl.
Thing is, both my wife and I are cognizant of this. We’re both, I think, self-aware to a fault, in that we often choose not to overstep our bounds at the risk of depriving those who really desire to see these things. The result has been this constant struggle for my wife regarding whom to bombard this footage with.
Our respective parents? Forget it. We could have a camera on our little one Truman Show-style and my mother-in-law wouldn’t leave the house. After that it gets dicey. We get so much positive feedback about sending pictures, etc, but we’re always trying to interpret that as genuine versus being nice. Also, my wife is the type of person who responds to every email, text, forward, and wall post, so when someone doesn’t respond to her she interprets that as either a) I need to slow down, or b) that person is making fun of me right now.
A few weeks ago, after sending out another picture text, my brother-in-law responded with an innocuous joke about the amount of pics he was receiving. My wife took him off the list, didn’t tell him, and then reveled in the fact that he later lamented about not receiving any more pictures. She doesn’t mess around, my wife.
Last week we took our hopefully-soon-to-be daughter to the park for the first time. We put her on one of the infant swings and she loved it. She was smiling and laughing the whole time. We took a video of course, and we’ve both watched it at least twenty times since. “Who wouldn’t want to watch this?” I say to myself. And I think of Idaho. But ya’ know what? I don’t care. Something tells me, when the jokes come up, my uncle doesn’t care either.