I know it sounds shallow, but I find myself getting jealous when I see photos of other people’s kids on social media — doing all the adorable things and smiling full-on for the camera. If you take a look at the camera roll on my phone, however, you’ll find nothing but blurry pics and lots of solemn baby faces. Those adorable weekly/monthly photos everyone seems to get of their newborns? Most of mine involve the back of my daughter’s head. Sure, she’s quite photogenic when she wants to be — which is usually never.
But I still continue to take the shot.
“Look at me and say cheese, sweetheart!”
I hold my phone steady, finger on the white circle ready to snap a photo of my toddler in pigtails. It’s the first time I’m able to convince her to let me put her hair up, and the final product is too adorable not to share. Of course, she takes one look at me and turns her head away.
She crosses her chubby arms right when I tap my screen — and I’m left with a blurry image yet again as she races away from me. Such is life with a toddler.
I shouldn’t be too surprised considering she did the same thing when she was a baby. I’d line up the perfect shot and snap a photo with confidence — only to be left with a subpar image of a baby — fuzzy-haired, rolls for days — defiantly looking away from the camera.
But after almost three years and 9,468 photos, I’ve gotten a chance to do some reflecting, and I think I’ve landed on the crux of my photographic persistence against all odds: I have a terrible memory. My daughter will be 3 soon, and without my photos to look back on, I won’t be able to fully picture her at different stages of her life. Yes, I remember certain moments, but they’re fleeting. It’s difficult for me to bring to mind the image of her as a newborn from memory alone (then there’s, you know, sleep deprivation; that first year of motherhood was rough). Plus, I love capturing moments as they happen — and looking at photo after photo as they retell the story years later.
So maybe I don’t get to be the mom with crisp and clear images, the background beautifully blurred and my daughter’s eye color slightly popped from photo editing. In fact, I have no clue how people get those backgrounds to be so white and bright, so, let’s face it: I’m never going to be Insta-famous. Sometimes I wonder what the point of trying to capture all these images of my wild and crazy daughter is — especially when she’s so unwilling to sit the hell still.
But here’s why I press on in futility.
Because it’s hilarious. My husband and I got a newborn shoot done when my daughter was about 2 weeks old. There’s a photo in there that my photographer captured perfectly of my baby making a grumpy face. The epitome of all grumpy faces, like she couldn’t possibly hate her photo being taken more than in that moment. And she looks so ridiculous that I still bring up that photo to this day whenever I need a laugh.
Because nothing showcases her personality like having a camera on her. OK, so I didn’t get that perfect shot of her in the swing at the playground for the first time. But what I do have is her face, eyes closed halfway, mouth open — because she was probably screeching at me — and tiny baby fists balled above her head. And that right there sums up my life with my daughter. That right there shows me her personality more than any sweetly posed photo ever will.
Because this is what life is like right now. Crazy. Messy. Chaotic. Life with an active toddler is nothing like I could ever have prepared for. Trying in vain to capture my daughter holding letters that spell out “Dad” and her refusing to even touch them: It was frustrating at the time, and now I look at those photos that never made it into the frame and remember how blessed I am to even have these moments. I know they are far from those perfect shots, but I’m going to look back and remember exactly what this time was like.
And years from now, when my daughter is grown, I’m going to need those reminders of how life was pretty great — uncooperative toddler and all.