Cherishing Childhood Series Home & Family

Better Than the Perfect Picture

I entered the assembly room with the other eager parents ready to see their child perform in the pageant. We crowded our way shoulder to shoulder through the doors, all of us with our eyes on the front row. The more aggressive parents pushed past chairs and stepped over rows to claim their victory–front and center. I’m a second-row mom, aggressive, but too worried about what others think to be a crazy chair jumper.

My sweet Marlise was in the 2nd grade and had a solo part in the pageant that day. I had helped her practice her lines for this moment. We giggled until our sides hurt as she practiced a new voice inflection until she found just the right one for her part. She was ready!

Waiting in the auditorium for the show to start, I looked around at the other proud parents. They sat eagerly waiting with their phones out, ready to take photos and videos. The lights dimmed, and the teacher came out to start the show. The room lit up with the glow from all the phone screens. As the children came out to do their parts, I saw parents wave at the stage as they stared at the two-inch version of their child on their phone screen. I took my phone and tucked it under my leg.

My daughter hit the stage. Instead of taking photos of her every move, I watched her.  I saw her little hands fidgeting because she was nervous, so when I caught her eye, I gave her an ear to ear smile and mouthed, “You’ve got this.” A tiny smile crossed her lips, and I saw her sails fill with a bit of confidence. I watched and listened and took all of her in, my brave little girl facing her fears of being on the stage. This was the good stuff.

I learned something at that moment. There is nothing like being present.  I could have taken a video of my daughter performing, but I would have missed the moment to make eye contact and encourage her. I could have taken it all in later while I watched my video and looked at my pictures, but it would have been at the expense of experiencing the moment with my daughter.

After that day I started putting my phone down more often when the moment is precious. I don’t get to share all my really good mom moments with the world on my Instagram account, and I’m OK with that. The best mom moments should be savored, entered into fully with all the senses, shared between a mother and her child, not shared with the whole world. Nothing beats eye contact and a smile…not even the perfect picture.

Katie Nguyen is a lover of Jesus, her husband James, daughter Marlise, son Jude and her hairless cat Cleo. By day, she works from home for a Christian Marketing firm handling digital strategies for churches, businesses, and non-profits. By night, she walks out her passion and calling for bringing modern context to the Bible, volunteering at Saddleback Church as a women’s Bible study leader for a few hundred women. Life is full for Katie but she thrives
at making the most of her moments with Jesus, her family, and others. When she has spare time you will find her blogging at or sharing her thoughts on Instagram.

For May 2018, we are hosting a series on Cherishing Childhood. Check back to read more essays in the series as the month unfolds. Check out Episode 39 of the Kindred Mom Podcast, Cherishing Childhood with guest Lindsey Cornett.

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  • Sandi Sutton
    4 years ago

    Oh my this is so good! As a photographer I battle this so frequently — especially during those truly special moments. The angst between wanting to be fully present and also wanting to have the experience time stamped and recorded in some way. I’ve often wondered if my reliance on photos has caused me to stop trusting in my own ability to just take an experience in and savor it so fully that I remember with my heart in a way that makes the photo unnecessary. Like my own mother did. We’ve come to rely on technology so much to record our experiences that we are only half experiencing them in the process. My daughter’s kindergarten graduation is next Friday and you’ve inspired me to keep my camera put away and fully experience that morning with her. I’m sure someone else will have pictures to share with me afterward…but I’m the only one who can fully invest in the memories that will live in both of our hearts.

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