Finding the Love in Our Imperfect Lives

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A few weeks ago we hired a photographer to take family photos for us.  We had used Briana several years ago for family photos and also done one mini photo session with her as well.  We love her photos and how she captures people and their surroundings.  Our session was originally scheduled for a week prior but had to be moved.  It ended up being the evening of the last day of school for our boys which I knew might be tricky as I figured my kids were ready for summer break and a break from sitting still and following directions since school had just let out, but we went ahead with the date as the next option was not for several weeks.

Trying to get three boys to wear a collared shirt and khaki shorts is a real struggle in our house.  They have become too used to wearing comfortable clothing and dislike to even put on casual collared outfits.   To say the least, just getting them ready and then heading to the location to meet our Photographer, Briana, and my husband there after work was stressful.

We made it there and I figured the hard part was over.  Well, I was very wrong.  Getting the boys ready was easy compared to stress of the photo shoot.  First of all it was still 92 degrees at 7pm and extremely humid.  Even just standing there you could feel the sweat dripping down your back; it was just one of those uncomfortable nights.  Of course I am thinking, great I am paying to capture photos of us and we will look sticky, messy and dirty by the time we get all the photos taken.  The first set of photos were shot in and around a green space with beautiful old trees.  Those first few photos were fine as everyone was still willing to listen and smile.  As we headed towards the beach, the pull of the sand and sea took a hold on my children, especially my thirteen year old.  It was as if the sea was calling his name and he had to get in the water.

We had not even finished taking the first set of photos in the dunes and he was already down at the water’s edge.  His shirt and shorts were splattered with water.  As Briana began to take photos of the boys together on the dunes, their brotherly love for each other really begun to shine.  One of the boys put sand on the other and the next boy screamed. “You Idiot” with a mean, twisted face to go with it.  Right then, I thought, dear God I hope we make it through this.  The tension began to mount.  Besides the kids arguing in public and giving Briana a first hand account of just how fun it can be when your kids pull out all the stops to act inappropriate, the flies were biting and I mean it was an all out attack by these tiny creatures that pack a punch with their bite.

So you can imagine the set up,  I’m dripping sweat,  15-20 fly bites in and I’m not sure I can take another one,  the kids screaming, and my husband and I are up next for photos sitting in the dunes.  Yeah,  Well we tried to sit together and move my legs this way and that way to get a natural photo, but I kept sliding down the dune, and sand is covering my legs and backside since I was wear a long skirt.  I could not get my body into a natural position and finally I had to say I cannot do this, lets do something else.  It was losing my patience with the situation wondering why can’t it be cooler, why did we pick a spot that has biting flies, and why do my kids have to be the ones who can’t behave for an hour.

We were all trying to put on a happy face, but happy was the furthest from anyone’s thoughts.  I can think of many other adjectives to describe my thoughts, my husband’s, and the kids. But none of them where happy.

Next up we were going to take photos on the other side of the dunes for a family shot.  Well I look over and our oldest is thigh deep in the water and sprinkling it on his head.  By now it appeared my husband was steaming from his head, or at least I was picturing a scene from a cartoon where steam was coming out of his ears.  He wanted to demand, and force our son to get out of the water and come take the photos.  But I knew in that moment, that would end badly for everyone.  It would become a battle of wills between my oldest and my husband and we would not get another photo taken.  I said leave him.  Tell him we are going and he will come.  Give him a minute.  The rest of us marched up the small mound of sand to where the path to the beach and green grasses met and we got ourselves together.  Within 2 minutes or oldest joined us.  I told everyone before he appeared to ignore the fact that his clothes were wet, as we could not fix it and just take the photos.   Because we let him be and choose to join us, we were able to continue taking our family photos with all of us and with minimal additional drama.

By the end of the night my husband, myself and Briana all knew trying to keep those kids out of the water was like asking a dog not to wag his tail.  It was going to happen.  So once we got all our shots, we told the kids they could take off their shirts and get wet.  And Briana even captured some of those shots as well.  The ones no one has to pose for or follow directions.  The ones you say, you have permission to be yourself.  To let the pull of the sea take hold, as you feel the sand between your toes and the water rise up your legs in a warm embrace as the evening began to cool just enough to enjoy the sun setting and the welcome of night surround you.

portraits-150Why do I love this crazy photo of my family.  Because it shows that in between the chaos is love.  And isn’t that true in every family, in every home, and in every day of our lives?  Busyness, and distractions, moods, and messes surround us.  Sometimes those moods, and messes, and overbooked schedules can take hold of us.  Sometimes those days can feel overwhelming,  But sometimes we can pull back the chaos and see that all those moments of living life are filled with love.  Those moments are filled with purpose.  A purpose to give our families, and our kids opportunities, and to teach them and to love them.  To be there for them.  Yes sometimes life is messy but we have to see past the messes to find the love.  The love that is in the meals on the table,  the love that is the conversations at bedtime when we are saying goodnight. the love that is in the sticky floors and messy counters because our kids were trying to get their own snacks.  The love in driving our kids to this activity, and the next.  The love that is in every sacrifice we make for our kids, those sacrifices they never hear about, or see or are even talked about and if we did our jobs right, one day many years from now they will understand and appreciate those sacrifices a parent makes for their children.  There is love in the each of us, and yes trying to keep everyone happy, with their different personalities, different stages, and with everything that needs to get done can be a challenge.  But if we keep love front and center the moments, the effort, the days and years will matter and one day we will remember the love and the ones we love and the rest won’t matter.

portraits-106What kinda face is that?  OMG- seriously did he think this was attractive???? But that is the life of a parent- we are raising up little people who have minds, and ideas and moods of their own.  So we should expect that their thoughts, ideas and moods will not always align with how we want them to act.

Here are 6 Ways You Can Find Love in the Chaos of Your Home

1.  Tell Your Loved Ones You Love Them More Often (and Show Them More)

What better way to bring more joy and love into our homes than to tell our loved ones how much we love them.  And to show them we love them with hugs, kisses, snuggles, and positive words.  Sometimes we become so rushed we forget to take the extra time to tell someone we love them or give them a hug or kiss when they come home or are heading out.  Make it a priority because acts of love help us relax, relieve some stress, and feel more connected.

2.  Find Ways to Appreciate Each Member of the Family

Each of us has a unique personality, abilities, and see the world a bit differently.  It can be difficult to always remember this when the kids are frustrated, arguing, or not listening the first time to our requests.  Of course, I expect my kids to listen, get along, be respectful to us and others, but like everyone, they have their moments when they are not acting as they should.  There are other times when we want them to do something and they ask to do it differently or at another time, but sometimes we are so stuck in our ways or of demanding our kids follow our directives, we do not stop to listen to what they are actually saying.

What do I mean? Of course, we have to teach and expect our children to follow the rules, and listen and respect us and when they don’t do so we need to guide them to it.  Beyond that,  I am talking about realizing that how your son, or daughter or spouse approaches life, a situation, or experience should be considered and sometimes we need to remember those differences and try to appreciate them and figure out how to work with them in ways that brings his or her best self out and into the world as much as possible.

For instance,  It was easy to feel frustrated and even a little angry at our thirteen year old for getting wet before we finished family photos.  And maybe some of you have kids that stay on the straight and narrow and listen all the time.  But from the time my boys were toddlers, I knew I was dealing with independent, strong willed, creative, explorers- none of my boys sat nicely on the blanket even when my friends’ kids did.  My boys were the ones motoring through the yard or sand to explore their world.  The ones opening every single kitchen cabinet and emptying every single pot, pan, dish and utensil.  They were the kids that were inventive and good problem solvers from the time they could walk.  My oldest when he was 3 stacked four stools on top of each other to get the candy I put on top of the fridge.

The point being that while I could dwell on the fact that my son trying to get the candy was disobeying me, I could also realize how amazing it was that he could be focused on a goal, inventive in his solution to get what he wanted, and persistent by the age of 3.  Obviously, I am not saying we should see the positive qualities and ignore our kids disobeying us, but I am saying we should listen to our kids, focus on why our kids do certain things, and try and help them navigate life by empowering them and their uniqueness.  We should try to understand their nature and yes discipline and guide them when needed.  But too often I find myself wanting to slap down the rules, my rules, and my timeline on them.  Instead, when I find myself at a crossroads of trying to force my boys to do what I ask now with no exceptions, and realize that strategy often backfires, I realize I can step back, give them space, let them know what is next, or expected, and usually they will choose on their own and in their own time to make a good choice or step back in line.  We need to allow our kids room to breathe, to decide for themselves that respecting others, getting along with others, helping out, follow necessary rules is the way to go because they want others to do the same to them.  Eventually they come around, but sometimes they need to space to connect the dots on their own.

So it took me til the end of the photo shoot to appreciate that evening on the beach with the sand and sweat sticking to my arms, and bites covering my legs, to remember that even in the heat of the night, as two of my boys splashed in the water, and the boys took turns on my husband’s shoulders and my oldest son carried my youngest on his shoulders that that night was filled with love.  And with love comes the sprinkles of life better know as impatience, frustration, silliness, playfulness, and joy.  It’s our job to keep the different types of sprinkles in check.

finding love in your family

It was then that I remembered why I love each of those people on the beach with me.  My oldest who was drawn to the water is strong-willed, and determined, and he is a fearless lover of adventure and life , and can be very shy in big groups and often does not communicate his opinion and deep down he is sensitive but does not show that side often.  He is also the one that we but heads with the most, as do his brothers, but I often have to remind myself, a quiet, strong, determined, adventurer lives in him and it can be difficult to still be child, instead of the man he is becoming.

My middle son, is witty, theatrical, opinionated, and  fun-loving and has to navigate being in the middle of these three boys who all seem to vie for the alpha dog position on a daily basis.  Sometimes its not easy being in a house full on strong men and boys, although I think one day when they are grown and I see them as strong, loving, providers I will know those struggles as they grow into adults will have been worth it. He is on a journey and reminds me of an interpreter of language and life.

My youngest is creative, artistic, organized and playful.  He has big ideas and a big imagination.  And he so much wants to have every right of an older child or adult.  He invents things daily and picks up on things that would be nice if he waited a few more years to learn, but his quick perceptions and desire for fairness make him quiet a little fire cracker in the mix of a home of 5.

And my husband loves his family, and puts us first, is passionate about sports, a hard worker, willing to go along with all the adventures and plans I make for us.  Sure he sometimes can get frustrated with the kids (as do I), and all but he is goodness all wrapped up.

3. Laugh More.

I could look at the top photo of kids flying around my husband and I and think that is a terrible photo.  Or I can look at it and appreciate the silliness of the photo.  The photo actually made me laugh out loud for a long time.  But I laughed because I was able to let go of thinking about finding the perfect photo of us and realizing this photo summed up the evening.  It actually summed up how life feels for me most days or at least part of most days.  I was able to appreciate real life and what real life means in our home.  Give yourself permission to laugh more.  To laugh at yourself and at your situation.  There is really no reason to be so serious.  Life was meant to be enjoyed, and regularly we take ourselves and life too seriously.

4. Find Time to Enjoy Downtime as a Family

Of course in order to find happiness and more love in the busyness of our lives, requires that we make time for each other.  And that we have time to decompress from the day, from planned activities, and commitments.  And plan fun family outings as well.  We just went on a tubing trip this past weekend with our kids and friends.  It was such a blast and wonderful time with the kids.  Those sort of adventures whisper in our kids ears- you are important- and time with you is important, not work, not my email, or the chores and making dinner, but time with you.  Make your family a priority.

5. Embrace the Crazy, Silly, and Goofy

The honest truth is kids are silly, and can get wound up.  And most kids love to make goofy, terrible faces when we ask them to smile for the camera.  So why not just embrace it all.  Don’t let the silly, crazy and goofy get you stressed.  Instead try upping their game and beating them at it.  Why not show them that mom (or dad) can be even goofier, or sillier.  Hey they might even stop the crazy faces because they are shocked by you making it uncool.

Here are two of the many great family photos that were captured.  When the photos reflect the family I imagine- the family the way I picture it.  The family that doesn’t show up all the time except in my mind.  The family that is smiling, listen, and behaving nicely and getting along.  While this might not be reality all the time, it is wonderful to capture all of us smiling (without a crazy face, or wild arms) and together.  I cherish these photos and the crazy ones too because without them all it would not tell the whole story.  It would only remind us of a snapshot of a perfect moment.

portraits-110 portraits-177Note the water on our oldest son’s clothing.  But hey we were at the beach.  When nearwater, what I can expect?????

6.  Show Your Appreciation for Others

One way to encourage a positive outlook and loving environment is to go into the world everyday with appreciation.  Be thankful, and appreciative and let your kids see this in action.

I always thank the server, waitress, fast food employee, person holding the door, sales clerk, or whoever is helping me.  Why, because I appreciate their helpfulness, or positive attitude, or quick service and I always thank them and tell them that I appreciate their efforts.  And I expect my kids to do the same.  If we are having dinner at a friend’s we all thank them for inviting us and hosting us.  For me, Its second nature, but for my kids I remind them if they forget.  It will become second nature to them as well because they hear appreciation and thankfulness celebrated daily.  Help your family to show more appreciation and thankfulness daily.

Photo Credit:  Briana Klink Macon (Virginia Beach, Va)

Thank you Briana for capturing the essence of my beautiful family.

by Kristin P. Fitch

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