One of the things I noticed most after my dad passed away was the fact that we had so few photographs of him with us. Yes we had them from when we were younger, but as we got older and had our own children, there were significantly less images of my dad with us. I was most upset at the thought of not having one of him holding our baby boy, because we had one of him holding Ells. During that time of grief, we all realised the importance of getting in the frame with our kids.
I have never liked images of myself, and as I look through the photographs of when it was just me and Ells, I realised that hardly any of them had me in. I was either just at the edge of the image or the one behind the camera. My daughter will have very few photographs of the two of us because no one thought to take a photo of us for me. It’s sad but true. I wanted to change this for both Ells and Cal, and ultimately Mr J and his boys too.
My dad had slowly conditioned us kids to shy away from being in the frame. He had taught us that as parents we don’t need to be in the picture, the focus should be on the kids. But now, the hard way, I have learnt this just shouldn’t be the case. I want my kids to have images of us – together! And that means changing my own responses to photos.
I am super critical of myself in photos; in part I think that is because I hate the way I look and it is also a good rationale for stepping out of the frame. I could run through a whole list of negative attributes in each and every photo I have of myself, as I am pretty unhappy with all of them to be honest, but I have to stop that way of thinking because my kids only see their mum and to them that is the image of love. It is hard to remove our critical eye and replace it with the lens of our children’s hearts.
On a recent trip to Coughton Court with my sister and her kids, we walked all the way round the lake and through the walled gardens. There is one part of the garden which is all herbaceous plants, and they were in full flower. I told her to sit on the path and have a photograph with all her children. She groaned and curled her lip. Then I reminded her how few photographs we had with our dad and she relented. At first they were awkward, unfamiliar with the posing and positioning. After a few images they started to get the hang of it. By the time we had done more than a dozen photos around the walled gardens, they were laughing and far more at ease with the process. Sure I only had my iPhone to snap images with, but for my sister she had over a dozen photographs of her in the frame with her kids.
We swapped phones, snapped photos of each other with our respective kids and had fun doing it. She was lighter by the end of our trip and so were her kids, because she was in the frame with them! My own kids got into the full swing of it too, laughing and loving all over me with kisses and cuddles. My big girl climbed on my lap to kiss and cuddle me. I think when my sisters own kids began to do this with her, after a little encouragement, they started to understand what I was trying to do for them.
I still find it hard to stay in the frame, and encouraging the Mr to take photos is proving harder than I thought, but I’m hoping he will get the hang of it when we go on holiday later this month. In the meantime, learning to love images of myself is a slow process, but letting my kids comment on images they like is helping massively!
So whatever you are doing this summer and beyond, get in the frame with your kids. They will thank you for it when they are grown.