Parent or Papparazzi?

Is this you?

Do you have a camera? Do you have a child? Please read this handy guide prior to your child’s next ‘important event’.

Whether it’s a school band concert, a play or 5th grade promotion (no, it’s not called graduation because they are not graduating…everyone passes 5th grade so stop purchasing expensive gifts, buying balloons and for heaven’s sake please cancel the ‘graduation party’ immediately), you’re right there watching every moment. If you’re like 90% of the parents I see, your camera/video camera/smartphone is right there with you.

Everyone wants to capture their child’s special moments – I have a fancy camera with all kinds of lenses and attachments for just this purpose – so I don’t begrudge you this. I’m good for snapping a few pictures before, during and after. I may even email you one if your kid ends up in the shot. But this other breed of parent? The Paparazzi Parent? That’s an entirely different story.

Paparazzi Parents think nothing of jockeying for the best angle even if that means knocking Grandma out of her front row seat (no, not literally…but I’ve seen some parents covertly relocate an event program, purse or other item placed on a chair to reserve it; then when the relocated individual returns to their seat, they play dumb…”oh, that was your purse/program/jacket?”…yeah, smooth). And if Grandma won’t move or the Paparazzi Parents can’t quite bring themselves to transplant her stuff to a nosebleed seat, well that doesn’t stop them. They simply sit in front of her…on the floor.

Is this maybe hitting home for you? Recognize that you might possibly have done something similar (or thought about it), but not quite that over the top? Think you might have some Paparazzi Parent leanings but you’re not a card carrying member of the club? You’re not off the hook yet – read on…

You’ve found the prime spot, the one that gives you the best, most unobstructed view of YOUR prodigy. You did not notice the 42 eye rolls, 2 snickering teachers and assorted carnage you left in your wake – stepped on fingers, knocked over Starbucks cups – you were too focused on your mission. The casualties are irrelevant. You flip the power switch on and assume the position.

Then the event begins. The principal makes an announcement, the lights dim and off we go…until – POP! FLASH! SNAP! CLICK! – there is a virtual explosion of light and sound, and it’s not coming from the stage. It turns out there are more of you. Dozens. Suddenly arms are rising higher and higher balancing thousand dollar cameras and complex videotaping systems, each parent vying for a little better angle to catch the close-up of their little peanut. They take baby steps forward, edging ever closer to the ‘action’, completely ignorant of the fact that there are 100 other parents in the room trying to enjoy the show who instead are being treated to a strange kind of interpretive dance as the pack of P.P. advances. In fact, these P.P. are so entranced by the process they may not even remember there is anyone behind them at all. It’s just them and their superstar…and the camera. Must…get…closer….

By this point the room has devolved into a scene reminiscent of a Lindsay Lohan court appearance – cameras are everywhere. The kids battle through their lines/musical notes, semi-blinded and disoriented, but smiling, always smiling, because somewhere deep in their subconscious they know they’ll be confronted with these photos again, be it in a carefully constructed scrapbook (with captions!) or casually as part of a play-by-play of the event for some poor soul that made the mistake of asking how it went.

Finally – mercifully – the show comes to an end. The P.P. then move into the post-event stage, snapping shots of their child with every other child in the room, their teachers, the principal and probably the custodian just for good measure. The stats? Probably close to 200 pictures, 100 of which will be keepers because ‘they’re all soooo good!’

Half the room leaves having never even caught a glimpse of their child. The few sorry photos they snapped include 1/4 of the back of a P.P.’s head, or the blurry flutter of a frantic arm as it swung out in front of their sight line. Unfortunately these parents are resigned to the reality of today’s competitive event environment. Everyone knows the new rules – if you can’t get there two hours early to score a front row seat, game over.

But why does it have to be this way? Since when do parents need 5 billion pictures of their kids’ band concert? Won’t a few suffice? Doesn’t your kid look the same the entire time he’s blowing in that clarinet? And really, since when do our kids’ events require a ref? I mean, blow the whistle and call them for encroachment. Anyone who has ever attended these events will agree (unless – gulp – they’re the guilty party) that this display of self-serving and frankly rude behavior is ruining it for everyone else. I’m not suggesting that we start a scuffle right then and there, but how about this thought for the P.P…

…did you ever stop to think that by sticking your face behind the lens of a camera you’re actually missing the event? Why wouldn’t you choose to enjoy it live while you have the chance? It’s only going to happen once. I promise you the magic is happening right there, at that very moment. Your child is performing for you and they want to see the pride on your face but all they see is a flash. Put the camera down immediately, find your child and look into their eyes – and then you smile for a change. In this case a picture is worth nothing compared to the impact you can have on your child by simply being present in the moment, not to mention the fact that 99 of those 100 ‘good’ photos are going to end up in a box in your garage or a file folder on your computer. You know I’m right.

About oneburnedoutmama

Ever so slightly burned out mama. Love kids. Not so much on a few of the parents. Hate folding laundry. Love long stretches of silence. Prefer rain over sun and football over HGTV.
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