One of the many pleasures of having the little man is taking him to various tiddler groups and watching as he slowly breaks away from our little world of two and embraces the sights and sounds around him. As his nain (my mother-in-law is Welsh) lives some distance away, I thought it would be nice for her to share the experience so on a recent visit we all headed along to a Rhyme Time session at the nearby library.
Pretty soon, grandmother and grandchild were ensconced with all the other mums and tots, singing away and doing the actions together. It was lovely. So lovely in fact that I trotted off to get my camera and was about to capture the moment for posterity when something stopped me. Is it wrong to take pictures of a group of children? Would I be carted off to prison and branded with the p-word?
Sure enough, a librarian hovering nearby scuttled over to tell me that taking photographs was not allowed, citing library policy. Although she was perfectly sweet about it, I felt stung – as if I had been preying on the other little boys and girls when all I had wanted to do was make a record of a happy moment in the lives of my loved ones.
In an electrical shop in our town centre, I began talking to the owner about his twin granddaughters. Clearly a doting gramps, he had been overseeing the two-year-olds playing bare-skinned in a paddling pool in his back garden and it had been such an idyllic moment that the thought had crossed his mind to take a snapshot and forward it on to his daughter so she too could share in it while she was away at work. “I suddenly thought – could I get in trouble for this so I decided against it” he told me, although he had resented this gut instinct.
It isn’t actually illegal to photograph children in public, however much others make you think it is. Inflammatory newspaper headlines and paranoia seem to have taken hold, making us feel guilty when no guilt is necessary and casting a shadow over the innocent fun of childhood. I know there are many who believe it is absolutely right and necessary to take such stringent measures in order to protect our children – and perhaps my resistance makes me seem a bad mother in their eyes. But when my little man is putting in a star performance as a shepherd in the school play and I am unable to take one photograph to look back on, it makes me wonder where it will all end and it is that thought that scares me more than anything else.