Monday, January 14, 2013

get in the picture

On a plane a couple months ago I couldn’t help but notice the cutest ever baby across the isle from me. 

I tried not to gawk, but his sweet lolling head and drunken milk smiles made my heart sick for my own babies.  I watched his mother interact with him and it made me miss not only my babies, but my motherhood of those babies. 

I sat there with tears welling up in my eyes thinking of all those moments I had with them that are trailing quietly into the vast expanses of forgetfulness.  How I wish I they would hold on tight and scream for my attention like some of my children do instead of drifting so softly away from me.

I thought about how I used to curl those babies up on my shoulder and listen intently to their breathing.  How I would watch them sleep every night and feel like my heart would burst right out of my chest with how full it felt of love for them.  I thought of the night-time feedings sitting in my hard rocking chair, my body cold in the cool, still air but the warmth of their tiny bodies next to mine. And then the night-time feedings when we moved back west and invested in a soft rocking chair.  Those nights are still crystal clear…sitting there bathed in the moonlight filtering through the blinds and a defined slice of orange glow creeping softly toward us from the cracked open closet door.

Sure, it was not all sweetness and light.  There were moments where I thought I just might keel over and die with exhaustion.  There were the spit-up escapades and the diaper explosions.  There was the colic from Grace and the schedules and naps to maneuver with the big kids when I got to the younger ones.  But oh how I loved those babies of mine.  (Much more about mothering toddlers back here.)

As I sat there pondering across from this new mother, I had phrases from Allison Tate’s Huffington Post article swishing around in my sentimental mind.  I loved that article.  Loved how it reminded me how important it is to “get in the picture.”  And I sat there and wished with all my heart I had more pictures of those moments with those babies of mine.  Pictures of me loving them.  Being with them.  Mothering them.  At least that way I would have something to help spur those memories when they fade deeper and deeper as the years pass on. 

I couldn’t help myself from slyly snapping a picture of that mother and her baby.  I know, kind of stalker-creepy of me, but that mother-love just had to be captured some how! I almost got up the guts to ask if she wanted me to email the picture to her but wimped out.  I wish she had that picture though.

I mean, how can she know at this point that years from now she will crave for some part of physical evidence to soak in of how much she adored that baby of hers.  Sure, she will know she loved him.  But oh to have that picture on her nightstand when that baby turns eighteen and goes off into the big world. 

And then my thoughts wandered to how much I’m going to miss THIS stage.  I mean, if I miss my babies so much, boy how I’ll miss the inside jokes, the late-night talks, the heart-ready-to-burst moments on the volleyball or tennis sidelines and the hilarious things they say. 

I do write down my fair share of memories and moments thanks to this blog, but right there on that airplane that day I made a commitment that I’m going to get in the picture more with these kids.  I want us to remember their life was not just them standing smiling at the camera.  I was with them.  And I adored *almost* every minute of it. 

I was there helping with their homework at night.  I was there pouring over the internet searching for something to remind me how in heaven’s name you divide fractions.  I waited up for them late into the night and listened to their stories of triumph and dried their tears of failures.  I laid awake nights in agony as to what would be the best way to support them through their heart-aches.  And I tried to chisel into their minds things that I know will make a difference in their lives. 

I came home from my trip and poured over old pictures.  And thankfully my love is documented in a few of them.

2004-08-04 Pothier Reunion @ Bear Lake 04900860_n_8ablnh9hs12301076_n_8ablnh9hs8972004-10-25 Boston 127crop2005-03-10 at home 0372005-03-29 Charity 0092007-02-22 mom & kid pics 0472007-10-19 Boston 031203306_n_8ablnh9hs3754Beach Baby

WHEW! I did love them after all!! :)

This is the most recent one I found:  2012-09-07 AZ Grand 60184I know I look goofy, but how grateful I am for pictures like this that capture a little inkling of the vast expanse of my love.

Now, I know that it would still be ok if I found NO pictures at all. 

I know I don’t have to be SO dramatic. I mean, it’s really ok if the evidence of that love isn’t in hard copy. I believe that mother-love seeps from a mother’s heart into her childrens’. And then it starts to glow within those childrens’ eyes. From there it sparkles clear as day. And every time I see that sparkle in their eyes, that mother knows they know it: they are adored.

But in any case, I re-read Allison Tate’s article when I got home.  Here’s part that hit me the most:

“…We really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives…too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen.

Someday, I want them to see me, documented, sitting right there beside them: me, the woman who gave birth to them, whom they can thank for their ample thighs and their pretty hair; me, the woman who nursed them all for the first years of their lives, … me, who cried when I dropped them off at preschool, breathed in the smell of their post-bath hair when I read them bedtime stories, and defied speeding laws when I had to rush them to the pediatric ER in the middle of the night for fill-in-the-blank (ear infections, croup, rotavirus).

I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.”

Although these kids won’t have any pictures of me slamming doors or getting in-their-face-mad or forgetting them at carpools (those are a little harder to get), I’m sure they probably won’t need any reminders! 

But I just hope they also remember how much I love my job--the best one I could ever ask for: being their mother.2012-10-26 life 636112012-10-26 life 636062012-10-26 life 636142012-10-26 life 63621(Not sure where Elle and Lu were that day…)

2012-10-27 life 63676

Much more about my feelings about pictures of my mother back here.

Challenge:  Get in more pictures with those kids of yours.  2006-04-28 MFME 015(That’s one of my fav. motherhood pics…it’s my sis-in-law.)

You’ll never regret it. 

And you’ll thank your lucky stars some day down the road when it is YOU sitting there observing a new mother with her darling baby and realize, tearfully, those babies are gone.

59 comments:

  1. Thank you for this reminder! Loved your post. I have kids the same age and so can completely relate to your feelings. I wrote a similar post a few months ago - I don't usually post my own link in comments, but my post linked to an amazing article you will certainly love, so here's the link: http://raisingflowersandskids.blogspot.ca/2012/09/one-more-night.html?m=1

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  2. what a great reminder!!!
    I had a long night with a little one puking all night. every time he did, he would look up at me and say " I love you mommy"... I snuggled, rubbed his tummy, and laid with him, my heart bursting with love until he fell asleep ( until the next barfing session started)...however at that moment, there is no where I would have rather been, puke and all!!!

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  3. What a sweet post! I'm taking your challenge and am going to take more pictures with my baby :)

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  4. I love your post but it made me cry as 2 of my kids are gone to college and I miss them so much but luckily I still have 6 at home and one is only 3 but it's funny how empty a house can feel with only 8 instead of 10! Thanks for your wonderful blog!

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  5. I loved this post. Such an important reminder. I definitely need to get in the picture more. Thanks!

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  6. Oh this made me cry. So so sweet! I am right in the thick of it with my littles (6,4, 18 mos. & hopefully more). I always hate that (those rare) pictures of me with my kids are so staged. I try and remind my husband to just pick up the camera to capture some of those moments, but it's just not something he naturally thinks about. I'll have to show him this post. :) Thanks for your beautiful reminder!

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  7. Thanks so much for the reminder. I am not a photogenic person at all and have spent the better part of a decade trying to stay away from cameras but now I am realizing that there are very few pictures of me and my children. So this year I am resolving to not care that what I look like, I just want to be there with my precious little ones enjoying their lives!

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  8. Thanks for this post! Such a good reminder

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  9. I agree!! For me it's a little hard cause I'm a single mom so I don't have someone always there to take a picture but even when I was pregnant I regret not taking more pictures. you can always not look at those pictures if you don't like them but you can't go back and take pictures you didn't take.

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  10. simply touching. gave me good mother cry. thank you for putting motherhood into words so beautifully. now if i can just dry my tears before carpool. :)

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  11. I'm expecting my first baby in 7 weeks and not only did your post make me giddy with excitement for my sweet babe's arrival, but I loved the advice. I definitely plan on "getting in the picture"!

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  12. Crying, crying. I have a 3 year old and 5 month old. Life is so full and exhausting and messy and wonderful. Mothering is the biggest thing. Such a huge honor.

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  13. This is one of my goals for 2013, and I love that I found this article to confirm why I decided on it.

    Thank you for sharing, always inspiring.

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  14. I'm lovin' all this love. Beautiful.

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  15. Loved this post! What a great reminder!

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  16. Thank you so much for this post - what a great reminder! Now if I could only find my little remote control for my camera...... :)

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  17. That is a good reminder to get in the picture with the kids. I took my boys sledding the other day and when I went to take pictures, one of my sons said after you take on with us then I want to take one with you so that you are in the picture too. It was so sweet that he recognized that and wanted a picture of me too. But thanks for that reminder also.

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  18. This made my eyes well with tears. I'm going to make an effort to be in more of those shots now! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  19. What an absolutely beautiful post- I am sat reading it with tears in my eyes and such a bittersweet yet happy feeling in my heart.
    I have a just turned two year old and I am obsessed with taking photographs of her, yet I am not in that many myself.
    Looking at your photos of you with your children, there aren't that many of me and her, of course there are a few but not many.
    I need to make sure I take more- thanks for this post and reminding me of that.
    It was beautiful.

    Katie
    www.mummydaddyandmemakesthree.co.uk

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  20. Reading your blog always makes me remember that being a mom is enough right now for me. It's important and special and I don't want to miss a moment.

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  21. wonderful reminder! I bet with all your readers, there's a good chance somebody may know this woman and her baby! wouldn't that be cool! :)

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  22. As a young mom of three, 5, 3 and 11 months;
    You summed up exactly how I feel, as a mom.

    Luckily I get in the picture with them all the time!
    I always wanted them to know how much I loved/cared and did so many things for them. Because they, my children, do so much for me.

    PS. I don't have TV a FB account, never twittered or pinned.
    I don't want my kids growing up with images of their mother constantly in front of a screen.

    I do love reading inspiring blogs.
    Well I guess I only read two (occasionally) yours and neinei's.
    Thank you for being an example of a righteous women.

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  23. BAH! You did it again. You've gone and made me cry. :)

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  24. I'll do a plug for another mom's blog: The Anderson Crew. Every Thursday she hosts a link-up called Embrace the Camera.
    An excerpt from her blog (http://andersonfamilycrew.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_8779.html):
    "Each week, I am intentional about turning the camera around on myself, to get in the shot. It doesn't have to be on a day that I look good. I don't need make-up on. I can even be wearing my sweats that I love so much. It doesn't need to be with a good camera. It just needs to be me, with all of my kids, one of my kids, my husband, or someone else who may be near and dear to my heart."
    I'm not trying to advertise for her blog or anything I just thought you and the other moms who read your comment feeds might want to know about her.
    You may not want to do the link-up but her posts are still a good reminder to, well, embrace the camera. :)

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  25. Wow, what you just did to me, my youngest is a senior in high school this year, it's almost over, 36 years of raising kids coming to an end. I am going to pull out all my pictures, thanks Shawni for the reminder.

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  26. Love this post! And what a tearjerker!!!

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  27. Thanks - beautiful as always. I have a 6 week old and I am treasuring it as much as I can. Thank you for articulating all I feel.

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  28. I am in those lovely "littles" years with a 5, 4, 2 and eight month old...and the worst part is that no matter how much you inhale them, no matter how many moments you stop and look, hold, snuggle, kiss and pray time would freeze for just a few minutes...time just keeps moving so fast you can't breathe. I capture so much of their daily lives in pictures as if some how it will keep time still...oh what did moms do before cameras?!? Anyhoo...love your thoughts and thanks for the reminder to jump in the camera sometimes (and that there is so much lovliness in every stage of their lives!). M

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  29. I just love, love, love, these thoughts. I do wish I had more pics with the kids too!

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  30. I've never commented on your blog before but after reading this I couldn't refrain! I was teary eyed throughout the entire thing. So beautifully written. You have perfectly said it...put to words the same feelings I have had over my sweet children. Thank you! There is nothing better than being a mom. I have 4 boys ages 7yrs-2yrs and I am SO missing a tiny newborn baby right now! You are very inspiring, I have copied some of your ideas, we made our own Thankful tree and the boys loved it. Thanks for the idea.
    April

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  31. I've been reading your blog now for a few years and I don't think I've ever found a post that touched me as much as this one. I dream of the day when I am a mother -- thank you for writing!

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  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Needed this post, big time! Thank you!!

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  33. Love love love and more love. Love!

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  34. You just made me jump because I wasn't expecting to see a picture of myself... I was just enjoying remembering all your kids at their little ages and then bam! surprise! And wow, how did I get so many freckles?

    Aloooooha! Come visit again soon, okay?

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  36. Thanks for the great reminder. I was just looking for a picture of my mom and my son for a school sing-a-long and realized how few I had. I vowed to get more with all of her grandchildren even though her eyes are always closed in them! I will add pictures of me with my boys as well.

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  37. BAW! You are making me sob right now. But it is good for me. I am having a hard time with these 4 kids 6 and under and just moving to a new country. This is a good reminder though :)

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  38. OK, I've stalked your blog for a while now and have yet to leave a comment. But this post really struck a tender and personal chord with me. My little twins, the youngest two out of my crew of five, start kindergarten in August. Every moment of the day, I can just feel these precious hours and days waning away...and it takes very little--such as a blog post like this!--to set me teary. Did I love them enough...all five of them? Did I enjoy it as much as I possibly could? I well remember those years of complete exhaustion and longing to be anywhere but in that young mother stage....and now that those years are nearing the end, I wonder where the time went, and amazingly enough, I want more time; I want to go back, just for a few days, to when each of them was little and so tender, and remember....everything.

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  39. A few years ago I was at the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. and saw to veterans sitting on the bench talking. I thought, "This place will never be the same once the vets are gone." I wanted a picture of the two of them and then thought, "I'll bet they'd like a picture of themselves." I asked if I could take their picture, thanked them for their service, and promised to e-mail them a copy of the picture. George, the gentleman said, "You're so welcome. We'd fight for you any day." It was a sweet/funny moment. As I left, unbeknownst to me, George's friend turned and said, "I'll bet you a steak dinner you don't see a copy of that picture." George placed the bet.

    Two weeks later after I returned home and sent the picture to George he wrote back telling me of his bet and thanked me for winning him a dinner. We have several times since that day (usually on Memorial and Veterans Day). I have a great new friend that makes me smile every time I think of him.

    So, next TO OFFER TAKE THE PICTURE! Especially with your photography skills!

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  40. The best reason for pictures is to help you remember the moments! I have forgotten so much! BUT I do have a lot of slides and negatives that we can have converted to a digital format. Thanks for the reminder! Gotta get that done!

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  41. I am sitting here bawling. Thank you for your post, photos and insight (and the COMMENTS are incredible, too). I am always the one behind the camera, and my new goal (as of today) will be to get IN the picture, followed heartily by OFFERING TO TAKE THE PICTURE! Thank you again.

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  42. Apart from that the post is true, I still wonder: You didn't dare to ask whether she wanted the picture, but you posted it (and such an intimate moment) without her permission online for everyone to see?

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  43. Hi Shawni, I wondered the same as Kerstin above. I don't think it is appropriate to post the picture of this lady and her baby if you didn't ask for permission.
    But other than that, I love your blog and your oulook on family and life!

    -Jasmin

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  44. Who has captiured all of those raw and real pictures of you with your sweet babies and kids over the years? I have a 8, 5, and 1 year old and feel my childhood raising years slipping quickly. I want to capture doing things like homework at the table with them but when I am the only one home and anytime I try they just want to look at the camera and smile it gets tricky.

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  45. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm currently expecting my first, so I'll need to keep this in mind in a few months!

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  46. Thank you for this post. It's such a lovely reminder to me. There is nothing dramatic about what you you've shared. I agree wholeheartedly. I lost my sweet mama last year and though I'm thirty years old and have many memories of my mom's love for me. I find myself scouring photos to really remember and see her love for me, especially during the young years. I savor every photo I have of her and I. I'm reminding myself so deeply to "get in the picture". Thank you for sharing your blog and your heart.

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  47. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful thoughts...you inspired me to blog about my thoughts on this as well.

    http://babywalters.blogspot.com/2013/01/feeling-eternity.html

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  48. I think it would have been better if you did ask to email her the picture, and then get her permission to post it on your blog.

    Thanks for reminding us to soak up special moments, but I'd have to say something about privacy here - I would hate to know someone took a picture of me without my knowledge/wanting them to, and then they go ahead and post it on a public blog with many readers! Please do consider that many people would not like this. Thanks. ;)

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  49. Shawni- I love your blog and I am inspired by this post but taking secret pics of a mother and child on an airplane and going as far as to post it without permission is not okay. I think you should at least consider removing it. I am writing you because I would actually be horribly upset and furious if this was done to me and more importantly, my baby. I know you are a great mother and person and didn't mean harm- you live very publicly so it may not have occurred to you that others would be upset over this. Enjoy the moment you witnessed certainly, but it's not your relationship to document.

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  50. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post! Such a great post! It is so important to be in the picture. About two years ago I came very close to dying because of a burst appendix. During my days in the hospital afterwards, one of the things I kept thinking about was how few pictures I had of myself with my kids (the baby was only 11 weeks at the time). Had the worst happened, my kids would have had very few pictures to remember me and our love for each other. I have made a point ever since to be in more pictures. I have also made a point of photographing everyday life, and me doing my hobbies and interests more, so they have a well-rounded idea of who I am and our life together.

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  51. Bawling my eyes out! This was a beautiful post.

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  52. Sweet post ... but I have to be honest, all I can think about is how the HECK are you so skinny?!?!?!! I love your blog, been a lurker for awhile. And just had to say something. HAHA! :)

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  53. Okay, this touching post made me cry. I was mostly the picture-taker when my kids were growing up and now they are all parents themselves. Maybe I can be more "in the picture" with my grown children and my grandchildren...my second chance, even if I am not nearly as photogenic as you:)

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  54. These kind of posts of yours are my favorite! I am a young mom and love hearing your great insight. Thank you!

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  55. So true. Your posts are always so inspiring. This one really got to me tonight for some reason. I have a 3 year old and 9 mo old, both adopted, and am feeling so overwhelmed lately with sicknesses and such. Just today I was wishing them older and wishing this phase away. I know it will be over in a blink. Photos are so special to us, and to their birthmothers. I will try to hand the camera over so I can capture the moment in time. Thanks for your post!

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