Have you noticed that as obsessed as today’s tweens and teens are with selfies, they don’t actually have many printed photographs? I’m not sure the reason, but I have a theory: I think tweens and teens are so intensely in pursuit of the “perfect” picture that they don’t actually see their moments for what they are—the good old days we all remember—(I’m pretty obsessed with the new Macklemore and Kesha song)! My own children love the scrapbooks I keep, and whenever we have guests, one of the first things my kids do is start dragging out my albums. This always makes me cringe just a little, and then, I take a deep breath. This Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share a few thoughts about why we should preserve our lives, just as they are, and why we should help our students to do the same.
This is my life. These are my moments. Sometimes, I’m wearing pajamas. I vowed when my children were born to take all the pictures—all the time. I’m talking about taking the picture whenever a moment needs capturing, not just when my makeup is ready and hair in place. As it turns out, whether I’m actually wearing “public clothes” (as my kids call them—since I’ll say, “I can’t wear this in public”) should also be disregarded. If I’m wearing the footed leopard pajamas they bought me for Christmas, or I just want to capture that irreplaceable “huggle” with my little guy while I’m in a ratty old pink bathrobe; I’m taking the picture. Do you want to know why? Because I wear that bathrobe all the time, and I have snuggled them next to my skin, and if they remember me that way—remember us that way—I can promise that they will excuse my lack of makeup and rumpled hair. Why? Because by the time I get home in the afternoon, my makeup is gone. My hair is limp. But, I’m Mom, and that is OK with them. I apologize for the quality of these pictures, but I think you’ll all agree that they are worth keeping, right?
I’ve never been the mom who dissuades her children from getting messy, and I’ve never carried so much as a brush in my purse. When we’re having fun, I’m not going to stop to “fix” anything. Perhaps this comes from having a Southern belle mom whose eye probably twitches when I post some of my pictures on Facebook. We don’t have pictures of my childhood where my mom is a mess, but I’d give anything for a photo of us on the couch watching “Dukes of Hazzard” or “Different Strokes.” She smelled of lotion, and her skin was smooth; but her hair was often in rollers, and her face scrubbed clean, and a camera wouldn’t dare make an appearance. She’d peel apples for the three of us kids, and we’d feed the peelings to our guinea pig who would squeal in delight. I’d love to have that moment captured. I want my children to have those special moments captured; and to do that, I had to get over my obsession with perfection—both mine and theirs. Drool (theirs, not mine) and double chins (all of us, unfortunately) have to be ignored because, after all, it is the moment that I want to capture, not a perfect portrait (and even that can be amazingly difficult, as Ellen DeGeneres shares in the How Bad Are Your Paid-For Photos? segment of her TV show).
This photo is one of my favorites, despite what seems to be a freakishly big arm, no makeup, laugh lines and sweaty hair.
We were having fun, and Oliver had just been on a ride that was new to him, and when we got off we were laughing so hard that it felt important—worth noticing.
Luckily, I’ve had this revelation about capturing the moment without any trauma, but I’ve read a number of blogs and articles that detail how important captured memories can be when the moments are gone. “So You’re Feeling too Fat to Be Photographed,” a blog by a professional photographer who deliberately spends most of her time behind the camera, is a good reminder that those who love us aren’t looking at the same perceived imperfections we see. They are looking at the person they love. “Why You Need Imperfect Family Photos” is another mom’s warning that “the last five years of our lives have gone by without recording any good pictures of our family together.”
Photographer Rodger Kingston describes a camera as “a save button for the mind’s eye,” and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t truly remember the feel of this little man in my arms, anymore than I can imagine how one day he’ll be taller than me. But, this picture reminds me so strongly of his first Easter—the chill in the air, the desire to bring him into the family tradition of finding eggs in the backyard, and the fact that he and I had spent much of the night before up with some infant ailment. Photography can take you back to a place that you’d forgotten existed, but clearly thought important enough to mark in time and space with a picture.
Capturing the Moments
I’ve recently begun printing out pictures I take for my classroom blog and photos that my children take with their friends. I love giving these tweens and teens pictures that captured a moment that I found important—a moment when I was really seeing them, noticing them; and I love to share with them that I thought they were important in that split second. Their lives, imperfect as mine, matter; as I become a part of their moments, I hope to embolden them to love their #selfie—all of them—because there never will be a perfect one. But there will be a moment perfectly captured.