Like most parents I know, my phone’s storage is always dangerously close to its limit. Pictures of my beaming sons at the beach on holiday, looking adorable in the bath or playing in the garden on a sunny day have all earned a place in my heart (and on my phone’s hard drive) forever. I print off my favourites, frame them and scatter them around our home because these pictures are a little snapshot of our lives and are some of my most cherished possessions.
But they’re not an accurate representation of what our life looks like, not really. These pictures are an edited highlight reel of our life. Our best bits, as it were.
A glimpse at life through the lens of your little one
I realised this when scrolling through the gallery on my phone one evening, as I so often do once the kids are tucked up in bed (surely I’m not the only mum who does this?!). One picture stopped me in my tracks. Nestled among the carefully curated pictures of smiles and laughter, set to backdrops of blue skies and a tidy home, was a picture – taken just a few months ago – that stood out from the rest.
It was a picture of me, sat on the floor of my three-year-old’s bedroom amongst piles of washing and scattered toys, attempting to breastfeed my infant son. My hair was pulled back into a scruffy topknot, the black bags under my eyes told the story of yet another disrupted night’s sleep and I would hazard a guess from the look of deep concentration on my face that breastfeeding was still a bit of a struggle at that point. I immediately hovered my thumb over the ‘delete’ button, but something stopped me. I had never seen myself, or our life, from this viewpoint before. Was it flattering? Absolutely not – but it was real.
There was another one; this time, me and my wonky top knot are stood in the kitchen surrounded by bare plaster (our fixer-upper of a house is taking way longer than expected to fix up), cradling the baby in one arm while hastily preparing dinner with the other. There’s an unidentifiable stain on my shoulder and there are dishes piled up in the sink.
This is life, in all its mundane glory
The photographer? My three-year-old son. A quick scroll through the gallery on my phone revealed more and more images like these. I never ever would have asked him to take them (‘quick, take a picture of me vacuuming the stairs in my pyjamas. Don’t crop out my top knot!’) – but I’m so glad he has.
The pictures offer an invaluable glimpse at the journey we’re on together through his eyes. I get to see what piques his interest and what makes him happy (as well as me and my un-brushed hair, I found a 47-picture ‘burst’ of my auntie’s cat eating, some close-ups of his dinosaur collection and some blurry snaps of his baby brother crawling). While I’ve always whipped out my camera in the happy, picturesque moments – the moments when we’re at our best as a family – my little boy has taught me that a picture doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be, well, perfect.
Our life is wonderful, but it’s not all holidays and quality family time. Most of the time it’s messy, mundane and sometimes a little bit boring – but it’s brimming with love. So while pictures featuring towering piles of laundry, crumbling walls, dirty dishes or the really quite scruffy car might not ever make it into frames, it’s our life and I’m so thankful that I’ll always be able to look back on it – as it really was – through my son’s photos.