Photo Fatigue on the Grandparent Tour
We’re eating ice cream and I’m desperately trying to get a photo of my two-year-old with her grandfather. He smiles and kneels beside her in a way that’s painful for an 85-year-old. My daughter sticks out her lower lip and frowns before turning away.
I’ve already given her ice cream and so I’m out of carrots. A stick is useless when shooting for smiles. My father, good-natured as ever, laughs it off and my daughter finishes her strawberry ice cream in a funk.
It’s hard to blame her. She’s suffering from photo fatigue. We’re on the annual grandparent tour and she’s been photographed relentlessly, by me and my parents, all in a sad but understandable attempt to make up for time not spent together.
My husband and I have lived abroad for more than a decade. I always argued to my family that while we didn’t see each other often, we spent longer periods together because instead of the standard two-week vacation given to US employees, we got five.
Then we had a baby. My parents would prefer frequent weekend visits to two or even three weeks of intense quality time. Little children change so quickly. They want to bond with her and that’s impossible to do on a two-week annual trip.
And so we race through activities that are more photo-shoot than pleasurable outing. No moment goes undocumented. My daughter feeds a duck at the zoo. Snap. She blows bubbles with her grandmother. Snap, snap. She takes a bite of ice cream. Snap, snap, snap. No wonder she’s cranky.
I’m the worst offender. We waited to have a child. Now our parents are older. Keenly aware that the clock is ticking, I snap wildly at everything trying in vain to capture these fleeting moments. It’s all so sad. The worst part is that the incessant photos take the life out of our time together.
The last morning I’m alone with my daughter on the beach for a precious hour before we pack. For once, I leave the camera behind. My daughter floats on a wave for the first time. She runs screaming after sandpipers and slides down the dunes. We hold hands and run into the water. None of it is photographed. It’s stored only in my memory. Later I feel sad realizing her grandparents missed it.
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