Look At This Photograph.

I take a lot of pictures of my children. I don’t know if I take more than the average parent, but I constantly have the camera at the ready, snapping a good ten to fifteen photos of my children at a time.

To me, it’s important to document their growth.

Maybe it is a bit more personal than that.

You would be hard pressed to find many images of me as a child. The handful I have were uploaded online by a dear family member. The only one who seemed to treasure my childhood enough to preserve documentation of it’s existence. Besides the half dozen or so photos she uploaded online, I have zero photos of myself as a baby.

A small collection of me at a creek as a toddler. 

One of me on a small horse.

On the back of a quad. 

Some school photo. 

Me, doing homework during my first return to California after the rocky transition to living with my brother in Connecticut. 

My childhood, is largely carried on through stories told to me. I try to pretend to remember the details of summer days and toddler foibles.

The story of when I jumped in the pool without a life vest. When I was brought to the surface and asked why I went swimming without it I said, “I wasn’t swimmin’, I was drownin’!” 

The time I threw a rock straight up into the air and knocked out my front teeth. I looked up, wondering why the rock hadn’t soared over the fence. I remember looking up. 

I try to remember more than extension cords running between apartments. More than my strawberry patches being picked clean by a bully. My watermelon being knocked out of my hands by another bully.  

I don’t remember much of the good from being a child. The memories I do remember are an assortment of feelings.

The good is really good though. The pride of buying a ruby ring for a woman I loved as a mother. Watching Wallace & Gromit. I remember enjoying church. Looking forward to learning about God through Kiwanis.

I am hard pressed to find many memories of my childhood. Try as I might to search my consciousness for memories, most exist in a weird state of ‘did this really happen or did I make it up to fill in a gap?’

I am terrified of my children having to live like that. I want them to have access to their childhood as adults. To see the good, the bad and every moment in between.

I photograph nearly every moment, sometimes filling my camera roll with hundreds of photographs a day. I fill my Facebook with images of their childhood, in part due to the serious lack of my own.

They say as a parent, one of the biggest things you want is to try to give your children everything you never had.

I want my kids to have proof of their existence. Tangible proof of the moments, so they never have to second guess whether they really happened. Someday we will be able to look back together, and I won’t have to question how their childhood went, like I question my own sometimes.

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4 comments on “Look At This Photograph.
  1. I am the same with pictures for a similar reason. I was adopted when I was five years old and it wasn’t until I was fifteen, when I reunited with my birth family, that I saw a picture of me as a baby. I remember a project when I was in fourth or fifth grade and we were going over our family trees and learning about what makes a family and we were supposed to bring in a baby picture. Among the sea of little babies was me, a five year old in a red velvet dress because my first tangible memories were of my life post-adoption. I was humiliated because I didn’t have proof of my life before. The pain of not being able to participate like the others is why I make sure my kids always have up to date pictures of them. Anyway, that was long. I love this piece. Thank you for sharing it.
    Jules Ruud recently posted…Adoption Talk: The DoorMy Profile

  2. It is sad that you don’t have proof of your childhood in photos. I have to say, as someone with proof, most of the images are of me doing something embarrassing or chewing with my mouth open (before digital and you thought every photo was perfect). Maybe it is not sad after all.
    Kristine @MumRevised recently posted…The Ghost of Owners PastMy Profile

  3. I can empathize with your longing, but I also have this strong urge to take you by the shoulders and shake you while I say, “It doesn’t matter. Let it go. Unless someone has a secret shoebox full of faded photos from your childhood, IT ISN’T GOING TO CHANGE.” But we’ve not been introduced. In fact, I’m here because one of your followers recommended your blog to people who read his. And I don’t really know him either. You can take anything I say with a grain of salt or a pinch of tolerance. Or delete it before anyone else sees it. Entirely up to you.

    But look at it this way.

    I believe no honest person remembers being a brand new baby. Some may remember events — usually emotionally fraught — as early as age 2, but many people (especially men — not sexist, simply factual — have no clear memories of life prior to age 5. Or 8. Of course that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. The proof we existed as babies is that now we exist as older people. (In some cases, as Old People.)

    My point here is that I think it’s not “proof I existed” that old photos provide; rather, they provide context, grounding, fulfilled curiosity about what we looked like way back then. Maybe evidence that someone loved us. But their presence or absence won’t change anything. They won’t make you a more valid human being.

    There aren’t a lot of photos of me as a kid, either. More than you have apparently, but mostly taken by our doting maiden aunt. Our parents were too busy to be bothered. Hey, it wasn’t as easy as picking up your ever-present phone and snapping as many as you want.

    Sure, I took lots of photos of my kid, especially before he was about 3-1/2. (And I was using 35 mm Kodachrome, choosing which slides to have made into prints.) But, honestly? I took those mostly so *I* would remember him as he was then. That he gets to see them is icing on his cake. And what does he see? A cute little kid who was the center of attention most of the time. I hope he sees how loved he’s always been. I hope he doesn’t think that fewer pictures over time meant he was less loved as he grew older. Or that he ceased to exist. If I’ve done my job as a parent, I believe he’ll have felt that love his whole life — with or without photos.

    Sorry. I’ll stop now. But just let me point out one advantage you have over the fat little kid who looked like a terrified pig until puberty. You might have been cuter than the Gerber Baby, angelic and glowing. And no one can prove you weren’t.
    S.T. Ranscht recently posted…Cosmic Photo ChallengeMy Profile

    • I wouldn’t delete your comment, it is too well written and full of valid points.

      I think a large part of my photo taking is about having something to look back at with my children. Stories I can tell them, with pictures to accompany. With my mother gone, very few photos of my childhood, and a sense of missing my youth, I constantly snap the camera. I overcompensate for something I feel I will always be missing out on. That’s what we do as parents though, right? We try to give our children the things we didn’t have.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and also comment. I don’t always answer comments, to which I apologize, but I do appreciate your comment. It is nice to meet you.

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