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Kids, Cameras and the lessons of life

It is Mother’s Day. I was never married, never had kids and am not overly fond of people who do not know me wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day and handing me a flower as I feel as if I must lie to preserve their feelings or lie to preserve mine.

Warming up for the Y Kids Run race in Daffin Park the Saturday before Mother's Day

I like kids; well behaved ones that is. It is the bratty ones that get on my nerves and make me wonder about their parents. I do not think I would allow my child to walk up to someone’s desk or home and begin to pick things up and take things without correcting them, preferably gently, or better yet, by keeping them contained rather than allowing them to blow through the door like a wild wind spewing leaves and grass and dirty footprints all throughout the halls as a mark of their presence.

I get that kids will be kids and that sometimes even the best of parents have their moments when their kids embarrass them in public and there isn't much to be done but look sheepishly apologetic and control the urge to beat the proverbial living daylights out of the sweet balls of thunder when out of public view, but I firmly believe a parent should be a loving leader of the pack and set the example they wish their children to follow, even if they often go their own route and need reeling back in on occasion.

Parenting is a difficult pursuit too lightly entered into by most and a full time job that most parents do on a part time basis, allowing others to raise their kids in the interim. It’s not really their fault, but it is getting harder and harder to find full time, qualified parents these days and it shows in the kids behaviors and reactions, so just something you have to get used to and try not to judge.

Still, it is a pleasant surprise to run into well behaved children with manners and politeness who do as they are told by the people whom they trust and who focus their attention on instruction and warm the heart with their kindness and consideration of others. Such was the case this past Saturday at the Y Kids run event at Daffin Park.

I had not intended to go to the event, as it was a kids run, not for adults, but when I was asked if I could photograph the event with a borrowed Cannon EOS (I use a point and shoot Exilim) I thought it might be fun and volunteered.

I got the camera on Friday night and had planned to go home after work and practice using it. The last time I had used a big daddy camera was when I worked for Snappy Auctions taking photos of items to sell on eBay. That had been over ten years ago.

Before that I had used a Minolta and a Pentax 35 mm film camera and taken several courses in photography at Armstrong under the tutelage of Linda Jensen who still teaches there. It wasn't as if I was new to using a more sophisticated camera and I had photographed weddings, parties and events in my younger years for pay, so technically that made me a “professional”, though I always felt amateurish no matter what I did. I guess the more you know about something the more you realize you don’t really know that much at all!

That night, my coworker did not show up for work. It was his third offense in as many weeks. I had to work his closing shift and got home late, barely having time to learn how to turn the camera on, adjust the settings, and recharge the battery just in case something should happen.

I spent most of the night dreaming about how I would break the camera, miss getting the shots, accidentally delete the photos or worse. When I finally woke up, bleary eyed and sleep deprived I had to wonder why I worried so much. It was not a life or death situation and I usually took decent photos and this was a very good camera which basically would take the shots for me as long as I framed them correctly.

I still worried they would be too dark or too light or too blurry and wished I had more time to practice shots and secretly prayed that when I was playing with it in the house, I had not accidentally taken photos of my messy living room with all the piles of clothes and books in the background that I was “working on” getting under control, which a friend informed me could be translated to the English; “ I have not done a thing with them, but think about it often”. Thinking about it should count for something right?

In any event, I had planned to arrive early and run around the park a few times, but that didn't happen either. When I got there, a few minutes before registration started, I sat in the truck and worked on getting the camera ready.

I turned it on, flipped the view screen over, made sure the autofocus on the lens was set and waited for the screen to light up. It didn’t. There was a white outline of a box on the screen and nothing more. I tried another button and another and still the screen did not come on. It seemed my dreams had come true and I was sick to my stomach, but refused to give in, so adjusted the lens and something popped off the camera!

It turns out that the thing that popped off… was the lens cap… sigh! How quickly we forget, but this would not be the last of my faux pas or is that faux pas’s? Faux pies? Is there a plural for goof ups in French? [ed. if you are interested it is Les Faux Pas with the s in Pas pronounced!]

As usual, I approached the site feeling awkward and trying to blend in with people I sort of knew, but not that well, trying to see if they would say hello and welcome me or give me that look that says…”oh, it’s her… what does she want and when will she go away?”

No one seemed overly welcoming, though there were no dirty looks or anything, they were just too deeply involved in conversation with people they knew better than me, so I moved on, wandering about until the first registrations began.

A young boy came up with his mom. While she filled out his card he nervously clung to her arm looking around at all things new, a little scared but a little excited as well. I knew how he felt.

Shortly after, three girls came bouncing up with their moms. They all had on oversized kids sunglasses; the kind you get from Oriental Trading Company with the colorful plastic frames and big lenses that come up past your eyebrows.

The kids were cute and very photogenic so my job began. We were in the shade and I was looking at the camera screen but when I went out in the sun, the screen vanished and again I panicked.

I pointed the camera at a group of kids and ended up cutting their lower bodies off, so reangled and cut off the tops of their heads. Oh my. How was I supposed to take pictures if I could not see the screen?

I held the camera up to my face and tried to see if there was some way to adjust it and lo and behold… a view finder!!! “How archaic,” I thought, and fortunate. From then on I was good to go and the camera worked wonders snapping away five shots in a single button push and capturing kids bolting from the Fleet Feet balloon arch in quest of a certificate and a medal for their efforts. Now I was having fun!!!

I thought about running across the field to get close ups of them running toward me, but figured by the time I got back to the start line I would miss them coming across the finish, so stayed put and took finish line photos and medal and certificate awards as if they were my own children.

Two sisters both won certificates and proudly held them up with big grins on their faces. Another older boy came in last, nearly stumbling over his own feet but still placed third in his age group and was very proud.

Before the race had begun, one of the Y instructors, Trish I think, got the kids warmed up with a little dance routine. A young blond haired boy, not much older than three, if that, stood right up front and did his best to follow the moves, at one point shaking off like a dog and nearly falling down. I was laughing so hard, it was difficult to keep the camera steady.

All the children participated and focused on the instructor and for a brief moment I envisaged them in adult form back at the gym in the aerobics room. There were the well dressed women in their tight spandex moving to the groove as if they choreographed it themselves, the men who just stared at the women and tried to follow the beat without looking too unmanly, the people going left when everyone else went right and the people looking at the person next to them and bobbing up and down trying to catch the rhythm and the movement so they could jump in and follow after they got lost.

I wondered secretly if they would remember doing this when they grew up and if they would remain cool or uncool, rhythmic or klutzy, even into adulthood. I was impressed that they were up there participating with no parent egging them on and behaving quite nicely with no one doing flips or bumping into someone else just to cause a riot and get attention.

After the race, the kids rehydrated and headed for the bounce houses. Poor Dora the Explorer had few takers as most of the kids headed toward the Space shuttle rock wall slide.

Piles of shoes lay outside the entrance as little kids came down the slide in a tumble and a bump, grinning the whole way while their pull on shorts turned sideways and their faces glowed as they ran back to the entrance to do it all again.

As I returned the camera and jogged back to the truck… my way of saying I “ran” that day I couldn't help think about what a great time they had and how much fun I had documenting it.

One young girl named Clara approached me at the bounce houses and told me her life history. Maybe she thought I was a reporter. I think she was one of the sisters who had won an award at the race. She told me the names of all her siblings and as an afterthought added Emory. I am not sure if Emory was a new baby or a baby on the way, but it was kind of nice that she included the new sibling as one of the family even if it was not able to interact with them on this play day in the park.

I did run into several friends and we did talk and share a laugh or two and I nodded my head at those whom I knew by seeing all the time, but never really talked to personally.

The only bad thing about the event was having to return the camera and the pictures in it. I take way too many pictures. I think I am kind of like a hoarder only with pictures not things… well maybe a little with things too considering the messy living room or maybe I am just lazy, I don’t know. I am working on it…

So this being Mother’s Day I am reminded that if you are not a mother, you have probably served as one in some capacity. You have probably corrected a child, come to their aid, supported them by buying cookies or getting your car washed even if it looked dirtier when you got it back than when it went in, and you probably didn’t say anything because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Teaching children and setting an example for them is something we all do. The big thing to keep in mind is what you are teaching them and what kind of example you are setting.

They are in essence, mini-me’s and you are the Big Me. You are in essence the military commander preparing your troops for battle, only their battle is with the world and all the evil influences, not with guns and tanks and mortars.

How prepared will your children be to fight that battle; to resist temptation, to control their tempers, to share with others and to love unconditionally without judging or at least keeping that judgment in check?

If you had a mom or a mom substitute that got you through your childhood and trained you to be a decent adult, then take the time to thank them and carry that further by mimicking them in the care of other children so that they can grow to be fine examples of what a human can be with the right instruction, love and reason. It may seem like a pain sometimes to put up with little kids and all their problems, tantrums and imaginations that just won’t quit, but somewhere down the line, when they grow up and become “just like you”, let’s hope that’s a good thing and not a bad thing and keep striving to improve on the Big Me’s so we can set a better example for the little ones!

For more photos with the Cannon camera, visit:

A great motivational video or moms can be found at:

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