Digital photography makes it easy for us to snap dozens—if not hundreds of pictures of our kids documenting almost every moment and milestone of their lives. As toddlers, they learn to pose for the cameras on mom or dad’s phones. Then eagerly and often, they repeatedly ask to see these photos. They look at the pictures delighted at their own images. Self-consciousness does not constrain them. They don’t care if their faces—or clothes—are smudged with dirt or if the camera caught them at a good angle. They do not ask us to delete the picture because it doesn’t look flattering enough. And so the entire family gets to enjoy the photographic documentation of a family’s life together. Except…

Too often moms avoid being in the pictures because they look disheveled, tired, or not quite up to par. And the photos reveal a mother’s absence, not a presence. Perhaps the dad is the family photographer and it is he who is an infrequent face in the family photo album. The result is the same. He’s missing from the picture. Whether it is one or both parents whose face seldom appears in the family photo album, whatever the reason, it is a huge loss and significant missed opportunity. A picture is worth 1000 words they say.

As a person who has lost loved ones too soon, I can attest that it is precisely the silly, less-than-perfect pictures of my husband, sister, and mother… It is these photos that conjure the best memories, the most resonant emotions, and the deepest appreciation for having shared lives together. The fancy studio photos, edited and polished are fun for a Christmas card but they like the vitality and genuineness of the candid photos. Someday all that remains will be the pictures. Make sure you are part of them, being yourself and looking like yourself. That disheveled, imperfect, loving, “present” soul is the person your family knows and loves.

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