My mother-in-law Judy passed away three years ago this spring, mere weeks after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For her memorial, I offered to put together a slideshow of her life. Family members sent me pictures, and I pored over the family photo albums. In addition to childhood black-and-whites and shots of graduations, weddings, and family vacations, I specifically wanted to include photos of Judy with each of her kids and grandkids.
Talk about a wake-up call.
I did eventually find the photos I was looking for, but I kept thinking there should have been more. There were tons of the kids themselves and several of the whole family, but I wanted each of her kids to be able to have individual photos with their mom in that slideshow. I spent hours trying to find them, and it made me sad that this incredible woman, this incomparably dedicated mother, didn’t have more photographs with her children.
I used to scoff a bit at the idea of selfies. They seemed somewhat narcissistic and awkward, something the younger generation invented in their self-centered youth. But since making that slideshow, I’ve started taking more selfies with my kids. I want them to see me with them at various stages of their childhoods. I want to stay in the picture of their lives the whole way through, figuratively and literally.
We can ask our spouses to take more photos of us, and thankfully people are starting to advocate for that. But husbands aren’t always around. When I’m snuggling with my son in the morning, sometimes I’ll take a photo of us. When I’m out on a date getting ice cream with my daughter, I’ll suggest we take a selfie.
It’s not for social media attention or for my own vanity, but rather for my kids. I suppose it’s also partially for myself, so I can have a visual reminder of those special moments when my kids are grown and flown. But it’s mainly because I don’t want them to someday have to go searching for images of them with their mother. I want them to look back through photo albums (or digital archives, who are we kidding?) and easily find pictures of us together in various circumstances, at various ages.
Putting together that montage of Judy’s life drove home the importance of not just taking photos of my kids, but photos of me with my kids. It also showed me how important it is to get past my body issues and take the dang photo, even if I don’t think I look my best. I don’t have to broadcast these photos publicly after all. The main goal is to have a living history to share with my kids and grandkids.
Judy was a beautiful woman who struggled with her weight during a good portion of her kids’ childhoods, and part of me wonders if that may have been why it was hard to find photos of her. How often do we avoid the camera because we’re feeling too frumpy? Or because our hair is looking scuzzy? Or because we haven’t put on any makeup?
I’ve used that experience to help me get over the idea that I always need to look put together before I take a picture. Honestly, some of my favorite photos of Judy are of when she was au natural. She was gorgeous, inside and out, and her smile when she took a picture with her kids and grandkids made every photo perfect. It’s no different for any of us. Our kids aren’t going to look for photos of us looking like models — they’ll want photos of us looking like Mom.
So don’t shy away from taking selfies of you and your kids. Do it freely, and do it often. Don’t fret too much over what you look like. Take pictures with each kid individually as well as all together. Give them the gift of plentiful photographs with their mother. Someday those few seconds of smiling for the camera will mean the world to them.