Frankly, I’m surprised it took her so long to ask for it.
I had, “yeah, you can have an Instagram account, sweetie” queued up on the end of my tongue for years.
My oldest daughter first showed an interest in photography by putting a camera on her Christmas list when she was 9. This was during my own fertile period as a new photographer. She longed to shoot alongside me and so I made certain that Santa obliged.
As the years flew by, I knew Instagram would eventually be the natural extension of her desire to show off her considerable talent.
Instagram, like everything else online, has its seedy side but for my money it remains the cleanest, most pleasant social media platform to use and to view. Plus, private Instagram accounts are a thing so one can express themselves, make art and tell their unique story for only those they allow beyond the velvet rope. That kind of privacy makes Instagram an easy ‘yes’ for this dad.
Instagram is also my personal favorite app, the one on my phone that I click most often. Because of who I choose to follow, I am often inspired to travel, to make better photographs, and try to become a better dad. As Olaf says, “all good things, all good things”.
So I was ready when she was, which finally happened last month.
The upside of giving my tween Instagram has been threefold, and immediate.
Right away, the edited photos in her feed, but especially her more impulsive Story videos, Boomerangs, and images, gave me a glimpse into her life at school. I saw my daughter with her pals around the lunch table, in the parent pick-up line moments before I arrive, and on a school bus heading to and fro a special middle school band competition an hour away from home. This mid school day version of my now teen girl is something I’ve never had the opportunity to witness but thanks to her Instagram feed, I now am and it is extremely eye-opening in the best possible way.
My teenager’s Instagram also allows me to continue seeing the world through her lens, something I have relished for years while we travel together and experience the world hand in hand. Now I read through her descriptions of events, I laugh at her humorous way with words, admire the short sarcastic quips she’ll pair with photos, and I pay close attention to the angles, edits, filters and framing of her photos because I know she is too. There are no accidents. Everything she is showing and saying on there has meaning. Instagram is helping me see the young woman my daughter is growing up to be, and maybe too the young adult she wants to become. That’s critical intel for me to be able to observe, and react to as needed.
Finally, my 13-year-old and I have a new thing to bond over with Instagram. She excitedly shows me edits of a new photo she made, walking me through her process, and she’ll ask me about the techniques I used to produce the look of a photograph I recently shared on my feed. I know it is possible for a parent and child to begin to grow apart as they grow up so I’ll excitedly take one more active connection, one more bond, one more conversation starter. Right now, Instagram is providing us with that.
Recently, during a dad & daughter road trip (our first!) to Ottawa, we finished our days of city exploring by lying side by side, scrolling through the picture libraries on our phones. We remembered how delicious those delicious local Beaver Tails treats were, how gorgeous the stained glass inside parliament was, and how stunning the chunks of ice looked floating beneath the bridge while the sun was setting. We edited photos together, comparing who got the better video of the adorable beaver swimming in the locks, and posted on our respective Instagram channels. Sure, it wasn’t traditional dad and daughter bonding over a pretend tea party or something but it was modern, age appropriate and absolutely amazing.
Instagram has opened up one more crucial line of communication between this dad and his daughter as we both move forward into a harried world together. Despite the relative dangers of the social media world I’ve allowed to be open to her, that’s an invaluable gift I’ll gladly accept.