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When Your Teens Are Photo-Shy, It’s Impossible To Get Family Photos

Dear Daughter,

I don’t know when it started. Exactly how things changed. I remember when you were a child, excitedly begging for mommy to take pictures of you doing pretty much every single thing.

Whenever you saw photographs of yourself, you would always smile, wide-eyed, and ask me to take more. Those years were filled with albums upon albums of you in your pigtails. I took snapshots of you swimming, dancing, swinging, singing, playing, and smiling so big, with your eyes lit up, full of childhood innocence and pure joy in simply being you.

Pictures of Teenagers

Oh, how you loved the camera. You liked the attention, you loved to see yourself documented in dramatic poses, capturing funny faces wearing princess dresses, lipstick covering half your face, two different clip-on earrings dangling, and a tiara crooked on your head.

Back then you loved to ‘perform,’ singing into a plastic microphone, busting out those dance moves with relentless confidence, while I held the video camera still. You believed you were a superstar, pushing your little brother out of the way so that you could bask in the spotlight. My gosh, it was fun.

Those were the days.

I am so glad I caught it all on camera because I didn’t know it would end. I didn’t know there would come a day when I’d have to beg, plead, even bribe to get just one shot of so many moments I desperately want to record. For much of these last few years, I have no photographs documenting countless moments that should have been captured, because you politely refused.

There are particular rules for taking photos of teens, this I have learned. And although I understand your need for self-preservation and protection, your inability to see the beauty I see, and the unrealistic qualifications you place on what is deemed photo-worthy, I want you to understand something.

You see, I still want to capture that little girl, now grown and beautiful and soaring into adulthood. I want to freeze these moments to save forever. I need to have something tangible to mark these extraordinary events you experience because they are the stepping stones on your timeline, they are laying the foundation of your life, they are the intrinsic details that reflect who you are becoming.

And they deserve to be chronicled and preserved.

You Want No Family Photos?

You may only see it as a picture you will scrutinize, squinting your eyes and enlarging the photo to examine every pixel portrayed, concluding it needs to be deleted for a variety of reasons; all of which I disagree.

Sometimes, we try again, taking shot after shot, repeating the process, as you point out flaws and get frustrated, and I am heartbroken because you don’t see what I see.

Instead, you look for any nuance that isn’t perfect, and my gosh, the bar is so high. When did you place it there? When did you develop such a high reach?

I miss my little girl. The liberated child who loved herself with no conditions, no comparisons, no expectations.

No bar at all.

Now, it seems you hold yourself captive as your own critic.

There are those rare times you smile when looking at a photo of yourself, and I see acceptance, even happiness. You nod and agree that one particular image is good. I view the clarity in your eyes, the confidence in your posture, and joy fills me. I long for more of those moments, the ones you see what I see. The ones where you believe you are worthy of feeling beautiful, of feeling secure in your skin.

Sometimes, I get your permission to share a picture of you on social media. It’s often with hesitation, but I become giddy with excitement and share it with such delight I can barely breathe.

I See You

I want the world to see you. Sometimes I want every single person I know to celebrate this cherished moment with me. I want to shout, “Look at my girl! She is AMAZING!” Because I believe you are.

I want to record your beauty, your heart, your accomplishments, your talents, all the changes that are occurring within you. I want to document the road you are on, leading to all the open roads to come.

And I want to stare at these rare images, these glorious moments over and over again because they are passing by too quickly. They are slipping out of my grasp, and so are you.

These years are very different than the years before. I’m trying to walk alongside you on this new foreign terrain of adolescence, respecting your wishes and understanding your ways. But I need you to know that I will always want to capture every moment I can with you because I believe you are worthy of documenting how extraordinary you are.

And someday, when you scan through old photographs and glance at each one with a smile, as you recall the memory and you re-live the moment, you might just realize it too.

Christine Carter

Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com and her work is published at a variety of online publications. She is also the author of Help and “Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World.”