Pictures of Tiny Children
One of the things social media has instilled in people is a great disposition toward nostalgia. That’s not always a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of having memories available for me to walk down that lane and live for a fleeting moment.
I have a digital picture frame that I’d forgotten to unpack from my last job. I found it recently and put it on my desk, after adding a bunch of recent photos to it. I hadn’t paid much attention to the slide show it runs until yesterday. Yesterday, you see, the social media websites held their weekly hashtag-va-ganza of #TBT or Throwback Thursday. A lot of people throw up their pictures from high school or of their spouse or friends. Many others put pictures of their kids. I did that, quite often. The picture up there is one of them, my kids at Flintstone Park in Custer, South Dakota.
It’s easy on these self-induced and socially-prodded tear-jerking days to do exactly what the sites want: click. Click on the link, on the picture, spend time on the site and then comment about “I miss those little loves!”
It’s not wrong. I do miss those tiny little kids. But the picture never, ever tells the whole story.
My oldest daughter was such a cuddly, snuggly, cute thing with her pony tails or later her little bob of a haircut. But what those photos don’t show is the frustration her Mom had when she dirtied that dress or the screams when Mom tried to brush her hair or My daughter was tied to me at the hip and fought an awful lot with her mother. She wasn’t cold to her, she just related well to me. There were other things her mother did I could never do. Still…that picture is a second in time. Just a second.
Then came her sister, who looks more like me but was tied to her mother at the hip. She’d fight me, argue with me and constantly sided with her mother on everything. She loved me, would hug me, but was the polar opposite of her sister. When things were great, Mom could do no wrong. When she got hurt she would come to me to fix the problem, then go right back to Mom. That was fine…but the picture up there? The hat and dress lasted all of 2 minutes. That’s the only snap we got worth using. It drover her Mom nuts.
Then there’s those little boys. They were smiley, mischievous, devious, and funny. The pictures don’t show the one on the left throwing a tantrum every time we went to the store for a Thomas the Tank Engine train. We owned every…freaking…train, including some they had stopped making. They don’t show the one on the right following the pretty girl in the store around so he could chat her up . . . even at 5 years old. We had to frantically look for him while he flirted with a girl more than twice his age. God help me in a few years.
The other thing none of those photos show is their mother. She refused photos which is a shame because beyond the fact she was beautiful, those snapshot memories don’t include her, even though she was there. My first lesson for you: be in the pictures. I don’t care if there are leaves in your hair or you haven’t showered. In 10 years…20, even 30 you’ll wish you had been. More importantly, your kids will wish you had. The best pictures aren’t staged portraits they’re moments captured . . . and that’s why they make such great memories.
Last…bear in mind that today’s pictures are tomorrow’s memories. This last picture was from when we first moved to California. It was strangely profound, this picture my parents took. It shows the family, in its current status, years before my wife passed away. Still…there’s the oldest, carefree and goofy. There’s her sister…hair messed up, in shorts, mouth open, being a little monster. There’s the tantrum . . . and the flirt. This is a moment that actually tells far more.
I miss those tiny kids but what amazing big kids they have become. I don’t have to scramble for a babysitter, their sister is old enough. She went from being irresponsible to totally responsible. The tantrum-kid hasn’t thrown one – not one single tantrum – since his mother died. My middle daughter hugs me every day and talks to me more than she ever did. My oldest is doing what she loves.
Life was fun and interesting then. It’s still fun and interesting now. As the little kids transition into bigger kids and then adults you see that the core of what they were when they were tiny is still there. Our family cracked a little when their mother passed away. It didn’t break completely, though. Now when you look at pictures, I let myself be in them…overweight, over-tired, no matter what. We take more pictures, too. We do it because even after the unthinkable happens…you still have those moments. You still live.
It’s good to look back, but it’s good to look around you, too, and document today. Life, like the world as it turns, orbits, and expands with the universe, keeps moving forward.