In her essay The Mom Stays in the Picture, which went viral a little over a year ago, Allison Tate makes an excellent argument for moms including themselves in photos with their kids. She publicly made the commitment that even though her body wasn't quite the same as before pregnancy, she would, for her kids' sake, try to overcome her mom-frump-induced vanity and make regular cameos in the family snapshots.
Tate's post has resonated with me, but not so much because I am camera-shy. There are plenty of pictures of me floating around the Internet. Girls' night out with my neighborhood posse, date nights with my husband, staff photos at work. Trust me, if I've had time to reapply my lip-gloss and make sure the photographer is getting my good side, I am happy to strike a pose.
I also have a fair number of pictures of my kids. And not just the ubiquitous school photos set against a background of an unnatural shade of blue. As I breeze through my phone (Lord knows I never actually print anything) I can find several years worth of snapshots of my children blowing out candles at birthday parties, playing in the ocean on vacation and brilliantly portraying trees, geese and talking farm animals in youth theater productions.
But Tate is right. Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
I guess it's because the parents are always the photographers. We are so busy snapping these precious moments that we often forget we are a part of them. But last weekend I was once again reminded why I need to do better at this.
This past Saturday, my family had the honor of attending the funeral of a dear friend's father. The service was lovely and the words of both her brother and the priest told the story of a long life, well lived. But they say a "picture's worth a thousand words", so immediately following the recessional my family and I made our way up to the front of the church to look over the carefully curated display of Polaroids and Kodak moments artfully arranged on poster board. It was a lovely visual chronicle of nearly 90 years of family, friends and fun.
We mused over the inevitable change of hairstyles, skirt lengths, and eyeglass frames over the years. Many guests wistfully noticed how it was my friend's niece, a young woman now in her early twenties, who resembled her grandfather most of all. It was a privilege for me to get to stand with my friend and get the run down of all the people in the pictures, especially the sweet, candid shots of her whole family -- Dad, Mom and all five kids -- at Thanksgiving dinners, lounging lakeside and posing around the tree on Christmas.
As we left the church to head home, my 14-year-old son turned to me and asked where all our photos like that were. And I pointed, with a smile, to my phone. But I'm very grateful he didn't ask me to actually show them to him.
But his question, as well as a revisit to Tate's post, inspired me to try to get regular pictures of all of us together. Even if some (ok, most) might end up rivaling the best Awkward Family Photos has to offer, our family is a unit, not just a group of individuals living under one roof. And our visual archives need to represent this.
So this mom will try to get with the program. And get in the picture.