Stop creating a picture-perfect childhood

Jennifer Pinarski resolves to capture all her children's moments on camera, not just the perfect ones.

Jen and baby Isaac. Credit: Jennifer Pinarski
Jen (with baby Isaac) at a low point during her early days of motherhood. Photo credit: Jennifer Pinarski

The photo above is one that my husband furtively took while I was at my lowest point during Isaac’s infancy. I’d accidentally severed tendons in my left hand and was awaiting reconstructive surgery. Because of the protective temporary cast, I hadn’t showered in days and smelled horrible. I’d given up on breastfeeding and was exclusively pumping (I cropped the pump and bottles out of this picture). I weighed more than 200 pounds and struggled with depression.

It was also the last time I let my husband take a candid photo of me.

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I often joke that you can tell the difference between the children of bloggers and non-bloggers: My kids never question why I need them to make a face at the camera or stand in a particular pose for several shots in a row. When I’m done taking pictures, they’ll peer over my shoulder at my smartphone screen as I scroll through, deleting the ones I know I won’t use—the ones where my son is squinting, or my daughter’s hair is messy, or the one where I think my face looks fat.

The kids protest, of course. “But your hair looks pretty in that one,” my daughter will say. My son, who loves to pull funny faces for an audience, is insulted when I’d rather not post a picture of him sticking out his tongue. But I delete them anyway—these “imperfect” family photos are the victim of our digital age where we each have control over how the rest of the world views us online.

Of course, my own childhood photos were not this carefully curated. A photo I recently uncovered featured me sitting with a friend on the front porch of my farmhouse, a few stubby brown beer bottles in the background, our hair uncombed, and a cat walking away from the camera, tail held up in defiance. It’s a hilariously awkward photo that I’m sure my parents would have deleted it they could.

Jamie Passaro said it perfectly last week on the New York Times’ Motherlode section. In “Saving the Images of a Perfect Childhood and Deleting the Rest” she wrote:

“My daughters are part of a generation of kids who won’t sift through their family stories from a shoebox of old photos. They’ll have their tweaky, one-eye-shut shots deleted or edited out or forever marooned on the hard drive of someone’s old Mac.”

The irony of having a camera in my pocket 24/7 is that fewer of my family’s memories are captured: Either my kids won’t pose the way I want them to or I’m deleting the ones that can’t be filtered into perfection.

So this is my resolution for 2015: To capture the imperfection that is life with kids. Because those messy, raucous moments as a family, are usually the most joyous—even if they’re not so pretty.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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