Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Mom Stays in the Picture

  1. This is a wonderful post, Xan. I, too, TAKE all the pictures. I have my own trove of reasons, but when pics are taken of me, I tend to delete them as well. I won’t annoy you by pointing out that you look GREAT in the top pic of your post (but you do). I will try to take your advice and show up for my kids in pictures from time to time; you make an excellent point.

    • Thank you, Laura! I think one of the points here is that literally NO ONE else sees what Little Voice sees. Even rational me knows that picture is great (and thank you for saying so) but it’s Little Voice who gets loud, right?

  2. This post made me cry because even though I don’t have a kid, I can relate.

    I think you’re just wonderful and awesome and beautiful and rad, by the way. And Double D is just scrumptious.

  3. It may be strange to say but whenever I see pictures of you and all our Academy women classmates – I think “wow, she’s gorgeous”. I’m not sure if it’s motherhood or confidence with age or love or what – but you are stunning.

    I too, take all the pictures. I too, have a very mean little voice. I wish I had included myself in more pictures with my first son. I’m trying to do better with the second.

  4. I am a neighbor/friend of Kit’s. I saw that she liked your post and couldn’t help but be drawn to it because of its title!!!! You put every Mom/woman’s thoughts into words. You put in black and white what we have all felt/thought. Damn that frigin “Little Voice”. Being there for our kids thru thin times and fat times and happy times and sad times…it’s a package and it’s meant for sharing!!!! You are beautiful and your son is adorable… Keep on making your presence known and to all of us reading this – F#*K YOU Little Voice!!!!!

  5. Another awesome post … I too struggle with the Little Voice … but I love pictures and I force myself to be in them with my girls because I want that record for myself as well as for them — a way to remember those moments of total joy I tend to forget in the day-to-day craziness of parenthood. You always put things in a most eloquent and thoughtful ways as well! (I even had to look up “fecund” so thanks for expanding my mind and my vocab!)

  6. this is such an important reminder. and despite the dark circles and the double chin, i’m going to look back at my imperfect pictures and think, i was so young, and probably add “and pretty” because i’m hoping future self is generous to past self.

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