There’s a photo of my mother and me that I know by heart. I’m in her arms in my grandparents’ backyard. I’m reaching out and smiling at someone off camera. My mother’s blonde hair is cut short. She is wearing a lavender blouse and is looking down at me, smiling. She looks beautiful. And she looks proud.
I love this photo. There aren’t many pictures of just the two of us together, and I cherish the ones that I do have.
I want to leave my daughters beautiful photos like this: candid pictures that will tell them the story of my love for them. So I take a lot of selfies. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.
For some reason, there seems to be something unremarkable about my daughters being in my arms. Whether it’s a family gathering or an average day at home, chances are few people will aim their camera our way.
It began the day my first daughter was born. Family converged on our hospital room to meet this wonderful new little person and shutters clicked as she was passed from one beaming family member to the other. We turned down the hospital photographer, figuring there would be dozens of photos of just the baby and me. Somehow, there is only one.
The trend continued through the first months of her life. When a family member picked her up, the paparazzi would swarm. But the shutters fell silent when she was in my arms. I took to begging, sometimes in tears, for people to take more pictures of us together. When they did, I didn’t often receive a copy.
I wonder if people are so used to seeing mothers and their children together, that these everyday moments no longer seem special to the people who ought to be pointing their cameras our way. The fallout is that it can make us feel invisible. And we worry about what evidence will be left behind to show our children how much we loved them when they were small.
Allison Tate wrote a beautiful piece for the Huffington Post – The Mom Stays in The Picture – about her own resolve to overcome poor body image and be in more pictures with her children. In it, she writes how much of a mother’s life goes undocumented and unseen.
“I’m everywhere in their young lives,” she writes. “And yet I have very few pictures of me with them. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped round them in a hug, how loved they are.”
You see, it’s not just the remarkable moments that should be captured for posterity: babies being held by their great grandmothers or uncles or second cousins twice removed. Posing in front of Christmas trees or blowing out first birthday candles. It’s the quiet, everyday moments of mothers and their children that we should chronicle: reading to them before bed, napping together on the couch, wrapping them in a towel and cuddling after a bath. Pictures that tell the true story of our time together.
Those are the photos I cherish in my own childhood photo album. And I reckon they’ll be the ones my daughters will cherish when they are grown.
So if you have a wife, a sister, a friend or a daughter, and she has children of her own, pull out your phone and take some pictures. They don’t have to be perfect. They’ll tell her story all the same.
Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.firstname.lastname@example.org.