On Being Vain and Weird and Silly


A couple weeks ago we spent the weekend at my parents', and towards the end of our lazy Sunday I got out a huge box of un-albumed photos my Mom had hidden away in her closet. This was the first time I had seen many of these pictures, and I was in awe. She'd always been good about putting photographs into albums, but somehow this box of photos hadn't made it into one of the many books my Mom had put together over the years. There were pictures of my parents on their wedding day, photos of my grandparents under big willow trees. There was me as an infant in my Dad's arms, hundreds of photos of my sister and me, hundreds of photos of everything in our life that now stands as a memory.

I pored over them. I was lost, entranced for hours looking through so many new-to-me moments, flooded with both nostalgia and happiness. I had never seen a pregnant photo of my mother and I hadn't seen too many of these candid shots of so many of the people I love, from years and years back. It was one of the best Sundays I'd ever had at my parents'.

Later that night as we made the two hour drive home I found myself looking through my Flickr album via my phone, while Hank listened to a basketball game on the radio. I saw the kinds of pictures that Henry might one day treasure- small moments, happy smiles, candid shots. And I thought about the fact that I had hundreds, thousands more on my computer, some even better than the ones I chose to put on my Flickr but didn't for one reason or another, usually involving the way I thought I looked in them.

There are so many times I'll go through my own photos and see such great moments, but end up hating them because I don't like the way I look. It came to me on that drive home that after going through every single one of those photos at my parents', there wasn't one time where I thought "gee, my Mom sure has a double chin from that angle" or "she should have put one hand on her hip so her arm didn't flatten against her body and look kind of chubby." Of course nothing like that crossed my mind. And why would it? I was focused so much on the love in those memories that my Mom could have had three heads and it wouldn't have mattered.

So for now I am learning to love all of the photos we take for what they are, little snapshots of happy times, and learning not to be so critical of myself. No one cares that my hair is out of place or my round face looks even rounder when I smile in that certain way, or that I have no makeup on Easter morning or a stain on my shirt from a family dinner. I'm a perfectionist by nature and my own worst critic, but I'm learning that perfectionism does not mesh well with motherhood. So as hard as it is, I'm slowly working on letting go of feeling like everything has to be just so.

When Henry and I got home today I uploaded a bunch of photos from our day. There were so many I adored- so many photos where we were both laughing so hard, smiling with our whole faces- and of course my initial reaction was to be overly critical of myself.  But I thought back to that weekend at my parents', looking at those photographs, and I realized that all of these pictures we take aren't about me. They're about the memory. And being vain and weird and silly about them is well, vain and weird and silly.

And so I remind myself of what's important- that Henry will one day look at all of the photos of us and see a happy mama and the happiest baby boy. He will not see the imaginary double chin I decided I had in a certain photo, or the way my thighs look a bit too thick for my liking in another. He'll see smiles, and crinkled eyes, and so much love. And to me, that's all that matters.