Pictures Tell The Story…Or Do They?

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For the past few days, I’ve been sorting out photos on my computer and my backup drive for printing for my daughter’s senior board. It’s something I planned to do earlier on in the year, but being sick for five weeks means I am still playing catch up, even after many nights of going to bed way too late.

As we’ve gone through the photos, she and I, we’ve been laughing ourselves silly at some of the stranger pictures we’ve taken over the years. Again and again I have heard “I was so small!”and “I was so cute!”. It’s funny to hear her say that she was so small; as her mother, I have often marveled at how fast the years have gone by and how she has grown. I guess looking at the pictures has the same effect on her as looking at her does on me.

My daughter has two dads. Both love her and are affectionate towards her, and it was interesting to see the differences. One was almost always posed while the other could be found snuggling, making silly faces (yes, those are posed, too), coaching soccer or working. For the latter, it was obvious that I had caught him doing some of the things he does best – working and completing jobs around the home and spending time with our daughter. And obviously, since I’m married to him, I get more pictures of everyday moments with him than I do of my ex. My ex has shared photos with me of his visits with her here where we live, and where he lives. Even those are posed, but perhaps it is because no one has a camera or phone readily available when he is doing stuff with her. Whatever the reason for the difference, it was interesting to observe the contrast.

In these pictures, I see the story that is told that (to me, at least) is true – one coached soccer and worked around the yard and snuggled and played Xbox games; the other planned more outings, museum trips and other such events with her, but everything was more posed and planned rather than being run-of-the mill. Maybe that isn’t the whole story, but it fits with what I know and see. Of course, a part of that is the need to maximize time with her doing more engaging and interesting things, because he lives so far away and sees her infrequently. Frankly, she got the best of both worlds – down-home comfort and interesting, exciting visits. We need both, and she got both.

So remember the title of the post – that pictures tell the story…or maybe not?

In going through the photos, I noticed – again – that there were so many pictures of everyone else with my girl than there were of me with her. Sure, there were the obligatory photos at the end of a recital or other performance, or on birthdays, but everyday pictures of life in general were missing. The ones that I had found of my ex-husband and of my husband were missing of me. There were none of us from the park. There were none from the many days when we had gone out and done school outside on the grass, or from field trips (unless I took them, and if I had taken them, then I wasn’t in them – this was before cell phone cameras and “ussies”). In fact, I found ONE picture of us doing school together. ONE. In thirteen years. There were a few of us snuggling together.

To read the story that was being told by my absence in the pictures was to read that I was absent in my daughter’s life. My husband said that isn’t true, because to take the pictures, I had to have been there. I understand what he’s saying, but it’s not the same. Being behind the camera doesn’t convey the same message as being in front of it; there’s no “live and direct” proof of my presence. Or maybe I am the only one who thinks like that.

And this absence from the photos wasn’t because I was uncomfortable with myself and how I look – at least not all the time. Lately, even with being uncomfortable, I’ve realized that being in pictures is more important than not being in them. Because in the long run, my children will care more about me being with them and enjoying the memories, and less (if at all) about my weight or bad hair days. I can’t take the credit for this realization – I read an excellent blog post that really highlighted the need for us moms to step out from behind the camera and to get into the pictures. Ever since I read that, I have tried to be more mindful of being IN the picture. I want my girls to have pictures of us being silly, and cuddling, and just being.

So here’s my challenge to every mom who reads this: if you haven’t read the post I referenced, read it. And then get IN the picture. Be silly, be serious, whatever. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. What matters is that you are. Because when you’re gone, your children, and their children, will want to see YOU.

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Suzanne

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Suzanne