A Nod to Prehistoric Mothering

My mind is filled with many sweet memories of my childhood. I was born in Texas, which is where I learned to walk and talk, but all of my earliest memories are from the two years we lived in Juneau, Alaska. My mama was born and raised, deep in the heart of Texas, so its safe to say she probably always assumed her own children would share many of the same experiences since my sister and I were both born there too. My oldest daughter has told me a few times that a child doesn’t remember things that occurred in their life prior to the age of three. I’m not sure if that’s a true fact or not, but it seems it must be, since I can easily recall so much of my (albeit short) time spent living in Alaska, from age eighteen months to almost four. My mother had lived most of her life in the southern part of Texas, so Alaska was certainly well outside of her comfort zone. She lived up to her wedding vows, and happily supported my Dad as his work took our family WAY up north, and agreed to live in Alaska “until she got too cold.”

In the scheme of things, we didn’t live there long, but those early days of our family living out a true adventure, are deeply imprinted in me. Over the years since I’ve become a mother, I have given thought to what it must have been like for my mom to leave a place that was so familiar to her…..their friends and family, their church, the home where they welcomed their newborn baby girls, and the warm weather and palm trees of south Texas. That’s a lot to leave in your rear view, especially with such a young family in tow.

Our time in Juneau proved to be an amazing adventure, even counting the difficulties that came with living in such a remote part of the country. My parents made friends, met great neighbors, found a church home, and they even led the youth group there. Our loved ones came to visit us, and always brought goodies from the lower 48, like fresh produce! Mom and Dad took us for nighttime moonlit ski slope gatherings, they taught us to ice skate on frozen ponds, we had salmon bakes, we hiked the glacier near our home, and any time we had a party, my mom would break off a hunk of glacier ice to put in her punch bowl. Friends, that right there, is LIVING.

In the summer of 1980, they sold our Juneau home, and we moved nearly 4,000 miles away, where they bought a 125-year-old home in the historic district of a town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My sister and I spent our most formative years in this home, living there during our elementary school years. For us, it was a magical house, in which endless memories were made, and I have often referred to this place as “the house that built me.” For my parents though, this house and those years were a lot of hard work. They poured themselves (and their sweat!) into refurbishing our home, bringing it to its former glory, and possibly better. By our middle school years, we had moved to Virginia, and we have all made this area our home for the last thirty years.

Through all of those heart-shaping child-rearing years, through the many moves, hard work, adjustments, and making where we lived into a home…..guess what my mama didn’t have?

Instagram.

She—-just like your mother and every mother who came before her—-lived her life with an audience of whoever happened to be around her. There was nothing to distract her thirty-seven times a day, no “feed” that she had to mind, no photo chronicle of her morning coffee and the only moms to compare herself to, were those she saw in person…in real life. When she wanted to share a photo of her children with someone, it had to be done either in person by showing them the developed film, a Polaroid picture, or photos sent in the mail. As in the postal service, with a stamp, and a note on the envelope that said, “DO NOT BEND.”  There was no taking time to post something online, no clever hashtags to author, no editing, and certainly no do-over photos because the film was expensive!!  If your kid had a crazy look on his face, too bad, that’s the way it was, take it or leave it, like it or not. There was no direct messaging, no following, no friending and no un-friending, no checking how many likes or reading comments, no online shaming and no online profile, no tagging your friends, and no daily INSPO for how you’re going to “one-up” the Joneses with your child’s next birthday party. They just lived and worked, loved and grew, traveled and stayed home, and raised us up in a prehistoric world where there was no Instagram. Heroic? Of course it was!

To be clear, I am thankful God made me a mama in the Instagram world we live in, and I can count on about two fingers, how many peers of mine have absolutely zero online presence. So it stands to reason that if you’re reading this, you share an appreciation for Instagram, Facebook, or any number of social media platforms that are so prevalent right now. Whether you only post occasionally, or multiple times a day, these are tools you are familiar with, and they do infiltrate and often times, inform our motherhood. We check our phones when we wake up, just before we go to sleep at night, and far too many times in between. In the olden days, people would have a basket of magazines or books in their bathroom, but as we all know, the only reading material we need in there is our phone. Gross, but a hundred percent true.

For all of its natural and obvious drawbacks, living and mothering in an Instagram world can be pretty awesome. I’m a photographer, so taking and posting photos is just what I do. I love photos, and I enjoy the opportunity to see photos posted by friends—those I have met in person, and some that I have not. I’m a shameless hashtagger, and I follow an absurd number of accounts on Instagram. I get easily caught up watching Insta-Stories, and I devote too much of my time swiping through photos.

On the flip side though, there is a wealth of information, connectivity, inspiration, support, humor, and meaningful encouragement, that can come from being an active participant in social media. When exposed to good content in proper measure, Instagram can improve your motherhood and give you the support you need in a moment you may not have otherwise received it. That can be as simple as just getting some comic relief on a tough day, or it could be discovering that other mamas are going through the same challenges of parenting tiny humans, and that knowledge and feeling of support can carry you through something.

The reality is that we are living in an Instagram world. I want to tip my hat to my amazing mother, and all the other prehistoric mothers, who raised us without the watchful (and often judgmental) eyes of an over-connected online peer group. While I AM in fact thankful for social media, I also want to be mindful of the simple way in which our own mothers did life together. Take some time and give some thought to ways you could dial it back a bit, and mother your kids the way your own did when she was raising you. Be more aware of how you’re spending your time with them. We are all guilty of wasting time, and it is the single most precious gift that God gives us. We need to be more careful with it.

I was talking with my Dad last night, and he commented that when we moved from Alaska to Maryland, he was 34 years old. He then said, “And now I’m 72….that’s how fast things go.” Wow….right? If you’re blessed to grow old, it will certainly be nice to have so many photos from over the years to look back on and enjoy. What’s even better though, is making the sweet memories that accompany those photos. So enjoy the online, social media driven world we live in, but take more time to see what is right in front of, and all around you. Real, old-fashioned, prehistoric human-to-human interaction.