A while ago on Facebook, I shared a talk by Dieter F Uchtdorf. He said, “”If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.” My favorite thing to photograph are spontaneous moments that reflect those sweetest of experiences. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of people don’t “get” it. They don’t understand why I take pictures of crying babies, skinned knees, and toddlers throwing tantrums. I do it for the same reason I take pictures of giggles, laughs, beautiful sunrises, holding hands. Because those moments are real and remembering all of them (warts and all) gives me strength.
A few months ago I was in a bit of a depressive slump. I had just started studying videography and was experimenting with making my own family films. The process really helped me enjoy those ordinary, every day, moments that I’m always talking about, but I felt the oppressive weight of inadequacy and shame for all of those years in which I didn’t.
One week when I didn’t take enough video for a new family film, but my children were clamoring for more, I collected some of our old home videos from my very first digital camera and put them together. While I was watching I couldn’t help but notice evidence of my motherly efforts in the periphery. There was a casserole dish left on the table with a couple half eaten plates; evidence of a homemade meal that we ate together as a family. A laminated piece of paper with the letter “A” was taped on the wall; proof that even before I started homeschooling, I tried to teach my children the things they needed to know. I saw books on the floor, babies running around in nothing but diapers, and a sink full of dishes. All proof, not of my chronic laziness, but that motherhood is hard and I did the best I could then, just as I’m doing the best I can now. Sometimes my best looks better than others. And that’s ok.
All too often I forget to be patient with myself, and that’s why I take the kinds of pictures that I do. Because when I look back and see pictures of Alice sitting on her brother’s head, I am flooded with memories of their friendship and playfulness. I remember how patient he is with her and how she would invite him to play by patting the space next to her in on a chair and say, “sit”.
I don’t want a million pictures of my kids smiling beautifully at me. I already know they are gorgeous. I want pictures that show who they are, not just what they look like. I want pictures of what life is really like, not dressed up versions of what I think it should be.
Not everyone gets it. Not everyone appreciates pictures of their children showing obvious delight in their naughtiness. But I adore them. My life isn’t always pretty, but it’s a beautiful reality.