Every photo I’ve tried to take with my kids lately has turned out a lot like this one, taken on Easter Sunday.
I ask them to smile, but they prefer to show the world how wild and crazy they can look.
This phenomenon really started to bug me a few weeks ago when we had the gorgeous Chicago skyline behind us at Lincoln Park Zoo during our spring break. “Please?” I begged my kids. “Just one normal picture? This is an amazing background!”
Every single picture we took in front of that stunning backdrop has tongues hanging out, eyes crossed, booties shaking and/or arms waving.
I started to think about our pictures differently after seeing a friend share a link to an article titled “Strong is the New Pretty.” A mother had discovered something more powerful than “pretty” within photos of her fierce, athletic, serious-faced daughters.
My kids are anything but “serious” and “fierce” in their photos. But I looked back at the pictures that were driving me so crazy and saw something that can also be interpreted as beautiful: children who feel FREE, uninhibited, silly, wild, and fun.
I can’t prove this, but I have a feeling my kids are showing this side of themselves in part because of the transformation their mother has gone through.
I can see how much more free, relaxed, wild and joyful I look nowadays when I look through my own pictures. It has been three-and-a-half years since I made a career leap from television news into non-profit communications.
Before, my hair was always perfectly cut, styled and sprayed. I wore a lot more makeup, a lot more stress and a lot more exhaustion on my face. I played Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” a lot in my car on the way to work. “You belong somewhere you feel free…”
Now, it’s okay for my hair to be long, windblown and wild. I have some new laugh lines. I do feel “free.”
When a photo of a perfectly-styled and red-suited female politician popped up on our TV screen, my daughter Clara noted, “Mom, that looks like the old version of YOU.”
That “old version” of me is gone. Now, I am in photos at our son’s weeknight ballgames, on our deck clinking cocktail glasses at sunset barbecues with my husband and our friends, and on stage in a series of theatre productions – experiences that were out of the question with an evening news schedule.
I am putting finishing touches on my book, which documents my final year in television news and my decision to leave the business. It’s crystal clear to me (and all of my loved ones) that it was the right time and the right choice.
Life is so much more beautiful now that I feel more free to live it.
If my kids want to show off their inner wild child in pictures, so be it.
“Wild” is my new “beautiful.”