Hey there, mama.
You’re sending your little one off for their first day of school, huh? It might actually be their first day of school – their first steps into the world of kindergarten – or this might be one of their last first days.
Mine? She’s in third grade now, so I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. We haven’t been at this thing too long, but I’ve learned a thing or two. I figure we’re all in this thing together, and we owe it to each other to pass on what we’ve learned. No sense in reinventing the wheel, right?
My most recent lesson? I don’t have to take the picture.
You know the one I’m talking about. THE picture. The one all the other moms are taking in front of the school…by the classroom door…at their little one’s desk. The one in front of the front door, an older child giving that aggravated look that says they’d rather die than smile for you. The one with the smiling girl in pigtails showing off her new lunchbox on her way to the bus stop, or the nearly-grown woman, car keys in hand, anticipating her senior year.
It’s the picture all your friends will be posting on social media later today. The one you’ll see and smile for a second…before regretting that you didn’t take that picture.
Shaming yourself for missing that moment.
Kicking yourself for not seizing that opportunity.
Yeah. That picture. I get it. I’ve done that too many times. I really do get it, and the little things of life don’t make that any easier.
My daughter’s school had a little photo booth, even, set up by the media center. Little props and an appropriately school-themed background and all. It was super cute and the perfect chance to get a “first day of third grade” picture to preserve for posterity. I saw the moms lining up to take the smiling pictures of their kids, and I gave it serious thought.
…and then I kept walking, following my daughter to her new classroom and taking in the sights around me. Because it was just a split second, but in that second I learned a lesson that might change me forever. In that second, I literally heard this in my mind:
Take the picture. Or don’t. Either way, it’s okay.
This was monumental for me, and maybe you’re cringing a little when I tell you that. Because maybe you’re a little like me and need to capture every. little. moment. Maybe you’re a little like me and have enough pictures of moments like these to create a flip book or your little one’s life. (I know I do.) Maybe you’re a little like me and never quite feel like you’re doing this mama thing right. Maybe you’re a little like me and always figure that whatever you’ve chosen is not the best option.
I get it. Believe me, I do.
But that morning, something shifted in me. Sure, I had taken the smiling picture in my driveway. I had made her pose for “just one more” before loading her into the car. I had “the picture” for the grandparents and Facebook and anyone else who may or may not have cared.
But that morning, in that moment, in the hustle and bustle of teary parents and wide-eyed students and smiling teachers, I made a choice that I’m actually really okay with. I didn’t take the picture. I knew it would add more stress for my daughter. I knew I probably wouldn’t get the shot I wanted, anyway, because she was *done* with the picture taking. I knew we’d both be irritated before it was over. I knew, actually, that there was another option.
So I didn’t take the picture.
And while I wasn’t taking that picture, I wasn’t missing a moment or failing to seize an opportunity. Quite the contrary. I was completely in the moment. I was talking with my girl. I was watching her greet friends she hadn’t seen since last May. I was stroking her hair as we approached her classroom and she looked a little nervous.
Here’s the thing. I don’t have the picture, but I have the memory.
It’s not frozen in time in my camera roll, but it’s locked into my mind. I didn’t take the picture…and it was okay.
So mama, I’m giving you permission – right here, right now – to take the picture. Or don’t. It all comes down to that one thing that underlies everything we do as mamas: make the choice that’s right for you.
Take the picture…or don’t. And I wish I could look you in the eye, whichever way you choose, and tell you that it’s okay.
There’s no right or wrong. There’s just you. And you are okay. Your kids are okay.
So take the picture. Or don’t. Either way, it’s okay.
Cheering you on,