Since when did growing up become one big fashion shoot?
At some playgrounds and birthday parties, every child seems to come with their very own paparazzi — who are also their parents or grandparents, and who also seem determined to record Every. Single. Moment.
Instead of interacting with other kids, these unfortunates are being conditioned to smile, pose and pretend for the ever-present camera. Maybe it’s some misguided effort to catch every pivotal moment so nobody ever forgets and it’s there forever. But does a photo still exist if nobody ever looks at it? And nobody cares?
Any time your spawn makes it to the top of a slide, catches a ball and manages to not fall over might be impressive to you but, judging by what the internet finds interesting, other people only care if that ball hits your kid in the face and they’re knocked off the slide by a cat that’s just been terrified by a cucumber.
Also, in the weeks and months after it’s happened, do you really care that much either?
With all this recording and cataloguing, I’m worried we’re teaching kids a terrible lesson — that their every action is noteworthy and world-changing.
Maybe your baby is particularly cute. Especially in sunglasses while sipping a babyccino. But everyone looks good in sunglasses, especially babies.
Also, babies have been designed by evolution to be cute. If they weren’t, we’d probably leave them in the forest or eat them.
On a recent Sunday afternoon at a barbecue, an old girlfriend of mine who’d married one of my old school friends, which is all fine with me, thanks for your concern, no issues there… anyway, using her phone, she subjected me to about a thousand pictures of her darling little descendant.
“Look at this!” she said. “Here she is in a dress. And another dress and a different dress. And in a party dress. And smiling. And grumpy. And smiling, but in the first dress. And in the party dress, but grumpy.
“Now here she is holding her daddy’s phone. And here she is with a book. Maybe she’s going to be a writer and a comedian. Just like you, Xavier. And just like you, maybe she’ll end up broke and going nowhere. Nowhere.”
Speaking to the people gathered around, she said, “Did you know that he’s got an engineering degree? And if he’d stuck at it, he’d have more money than everyone here. But he didn’t. Because he’s an idiot.”
And everyone laughed because she’s right. I am a fully qualified engineer but it wasn’t for me and, more importantly, I wasn’t any good at it. Like I’d never dare drive over a bridge that I had built.
When I quit that career, my mother said to me, “Are you sure you don’t want to go part time or something? You know, you don’t want to burn all your bridges.”
“Mum, there’s no need,” I replied. “They’ll fall down all by themselves.”
Which is the main reason you shouldn’t take so many photos of your kids. They might just grow into adults who believe they’re special, then quit a decent paying career to follow their dreams.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.