October is that time of year when school children all across America are bringing home portrait packages. Parents will wonder at how fast their children are growing up. For us, however, we decided that we wouldn’t be purchasing a package this year. Last I heard, college students don’t bring home those adorable posed shots so only our youngest would be receiving school photos this year. Additionally, since the loss of our son last year, the idea of updated family photos this year took on increased urgency.
It was my desire to take individual photos of our kids that would more closely resemble the last photos we have of Sean. Sean’s portrait, taken at our last family session, had an autumn backdrop. It sat in a 4-photo frame next to posed school photos of our other three kids. As I removed the old school photos of our three children to replace with the newer pictures from this summer’s shoot, I was taken a back by my own emotions. Sean would never age. The changes in the faces of our other children were blatantly obvious, but Sean would never have a new photo. He would forever be 31. Each year the vast age difference between Sean and our other kids will shrink until in time, God willing, they will surpass his years. It brought to mind the dark classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Unlike the story, this portrait is a blessing not a curse. Painful, yes, but how grateful I am that we made the time four years back to gather together and take those family photos.
As difficult as this realization was, there were a few take aways from that brief moment of grief.
- Moms: Get in the picture. One day your kids will be so grateful to see your face on vacation, on Christmas morning, at the beach, or cooking dinner. Document both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
- Schedule family photos. Don’t just buy the school pictures. School pictures don’t include the rest of the family. Maybe alternate years with school photos one year and family the next.
- Let your kids be themselves (I say with trepidation), and don’t Photo Shop out the realness. If your kid has blue hair and a nose ring or they refuse to wear anything but a tutu, that’s what you want to remember about this moment.
- Pictures make fleeting moments timelessness. They connect us to our loved ones, our history, and the moments that made us who we are.
- Balance is important. Don’t get so wrapped up in capturing every moment that you never experience anything. Two photos from a day at the zoo or ten from a week’s vacation is really all that you will want to look at a decade from now anyway, so just grab one or two here and there.
I’m ever grateful for the moments that we have captured in photographs of my parents and my kids. What photos do you most treasure of a loved one that you’ve lost?