Getting Back in the Frame
Get someone to take a picture of you and your kids and get them printed now. Right now. Do it. Doesn't matter who takes them, it doesn't have to be professional, but get in there. Be present. Be remembered. ps. this isn't for your benefit.
My father sadly died at the beginning of this year. It was/is a tough time. Loosing a parent is hard. You go in search of things that will help you remember that loving feeling and tender moments. I went in search of photos, of us together. And there's none.
My parents got divorced when I was young so we didn't have those yearly, beautifully cheesy, family portraits that people got done at Christmas. Not one knitted,shoulder-padded, Christmas jumper in sight. Plus my Dad was always in charge of the camera on holidays, such was the way back in the 80's. There were limited shots taken and I can still hear those words bouncing off the walls of our camper van "Don't waste the film!!" Don't get me wrong, there were pictures of him, on top of mountains, on a boat or dressed up, posing for some cousins wedding. But that wasn't want I was looking for. I wanted just one, of him, me, my sister, in our PJs, mucking around, nothing special but a picture that showed connection.
There's not one and I hate that.
I started to think, well this wont happen in our generation right? We all take iphone pictures every two secs, upload them to Facebook with some witty, self-deprecating comment about the never-ending school holidays. We're creating Boomerangs and Selfies with flying arrows until they're coming out of our ears (both metaphorically and virtually). Surely we've got this covered? Our children are the most photographed in history with more than 52 million snaps uploaded on Instagram globally every day and 350 million to Facebook.
But no. Sadly no.
This is now whats called the ‘lost generation’ in terms documenting for nostalgia and personal interest. Passwords get lost, phones get stolen, hard-drives crash, and "The Cloud" seems to be this alluring mythical creature that once its been fed, we instantly forget it exists.This is tragic. Looking at family photos helps children ( and grown adults even) create a sense of identity and gives us the gift of the past.
Dana Denis-Smith, whose recent TED talk ‘How to be Remembered’ is about the importance of preserving our memories.
With this in mind I started to look through my own collection of photographs to discover what I already knew, I have very few printed and they are ALL on my computer, with less than 50% backed up (slapped wrist).
Not only that but surprise surprise there’s a distinct LACK of me. You see, in my family, I'm the one holding the camera. I KNOW I was there for pretty much everything, I haven't missed a beat, but how will my children know? There is no photographic record of it, printed or otherwise and I now know that matters.
The thing is I hate, hate, hate getting in front of the camera. I avoid photographic evidence of my existence these days. To be honest, I avoid even mirrors. When I see myself in pictures, it makes me wince. I will come up with a thousand and one reasons not to. "I cut my own fridge last night and now look like I have one leg shorter than the other. My stomach is massive because I've been finishing the kids teas for the last 7 years. I've been using dry-shampoo for the at least 19 days plus I'm too upset that this season of Married at First Sight is over...".
But I finally called BS on myself. Called myself out for being selfish. I told myself that when I look back at those pictures in a few years/decades time, I guarantee I won’t see those extra few pounds that I wanted to lose, or some lines I don’t love, I’ll see a smiling happy mama, in love with my children and life. And more importantly, Nate, Daisy and Sebasthian will see that too.
So I did it. I bit the bullet and booked a family photography session at home. We've now got a beautiful printed album brimming of gut-punching images full of heart, connection and everyday life. We plan to do this every year and I'm honestly annoyed I didn't have this revelation when my 2 bigger kids were smaller.
When my children are adults they will now be able to snuggle up on a sofa, under a blanket with their children and point (and laugh) at my terrible hairstyle and fashion. They'll remember both the good times and bad we had together. They'll see both me being vulnerable,open, imperfect and importantly they'll see a documented, loving family unit.
I've given the next generation a solid sense of their past, and I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling a little smug about the whole thing.
(Published Wave Magazine 2019)