Dabbling in family photos as a blended family…

Photo credit: Rachel Elizabeth Photography

We have never done family photos. I know families that do them every year. I think that they always just felt like too much work at the time or something. We did photos with my husband’s kids when we got engaged about 11 years ago. They turned out really great and I’m glad we did them, but it also kind of felt dishonest. We weren’t a big happy family…we were a new family, just figuring each other out. We were all trying to learn our new normal.

Over the years, our family expanded and I had 2 kids of my own. I had thought about doing family photos many times. But honestly it just never felt right. I think I would look at other people’s family photos and you could just see and feel the love. There were a few tough years in there that were a real struggle for our family. It just never felt like I wanted to sit there and smile like everything was fine. It didn’t always feel fine. I felt like I was just treading water. I am not a fake person, and at times it would have felt like the big happy smiles were a bit too forced.

Well this year we have a senior…in high school! It hit me that we still have never had professional photos taken. My stepdaughter is thinking of going across country for college, so maybe this was our last shot. We should do it before it’s too late. She may love her new found freedom and just be gone! So I did it. I got a recommendation for a photographer from a friend and we scheduled the family photos.

I am really pretty easy going about most things, but as the pictures got closer, I became more nervous. Are we going to look like a fraud? Will the photographer, or worse…everyone else, be able to see our….glaring blendedness?! I knew it was probably the last thing the teenagers wanted to be doing on a Saturday night, but they were being really good sports about it. I bought them a bunch of shirts and jeans and I said, “Please just pick something out of this pile of clothes. I don’t care if you ever wear it again.” They took it all in stride, no complaints.

It was here…picture day. We went out to meet the photographer at the most beautiful location. My type A personality was kicking in a little at this point though, because I knew we only had an hour or so of really good light left to get all of our pictures taken. How are we going to get multiple pictures with 7 people smiling (and not blinking) ALL AT THE SAME TIME?! The photographer didn’t seem nervous at all:) She was awesome in fact. She walked us through every pose, and helped the little one with his forced smile (tickling really helps:). We ended up really having fun with it! The kids even said that they had fun…it was shocking!

Later that night, the photographer sent me a message about what great kids they are and what a nice family we have. It surprised me how emotional that made me. I was thinking, “You know what? We do. The kids are nice kids. They are respectful to adults and all have a personality. They are funny and actually really enjoy being together.” That was really an epiphany for me! At some point, when people say things enough, you believe it!

Then the photographer sent over a few photos as a sneak peak. Again…emotional. And if you know me, that would be surprising. I am very even keel. I don’t show a lot of emotion. The pictures were fantastic! But what blew me away the most was that the emotions in the pictures were true. We ARE a family…and a good one. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company. The bigger kids really have fun with their younger siblings. You can see the love. And that made me feel really…proud. Like, “Dammit…we have actually done it!” Somehow through all of it we became a family…tried and true.

We have been through a lot. Almost none of it has been easy. We have not always felt like standing in front of a camera and smiling together. At other times that would have felt fraudulent. But here…in this moment…in these pictures…we ARE a family…a really good one:) I feel thankful and proud and blessed. There have been many times where those would not be the words I would have used to describe us…but we have come a long damn way, haven’t we.

Photo credit: Rachel Elizabeth Photography

‘Family’ isn’t defined only by last names or blood. It’s defined by commitment and by love. It means showing up when they need it most. It means having each other’s backs. It means choosing to love each other even on those days when you struggle to like each other. It means never giving up on each other!

Dave Willis

Sincerely written on this day,

The Dabbler

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