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The Not So Perfect Family Picture

Latino Autism Family_Lisa Quinones Fontanez_Babble_Autismwonderland

A recent ‘good’ family photo (September 2013)

“Would you like me to take your picture?” a woman asked seeing me in the park with my iPhone fumbling to get a shot of my husband, Joseph, and son, Norrin.

It was a kind offer and one I greatly appreciated because we don’t have many photos together. The sun was bright and it was a beautiful fall day in Sleepy Hollow. We were in Patriots Park – the perfect backdrop for a family photo. Taking a family picture doesn’t seem like a big deal. But for us it is.

Handing the woman my iPhone, I walked over to Joseph and Norrin. Joseph had both hands on Norrin’s shoulders. Joseph and I through clenched teeth smiles, urged Norrin to look and smile. Norrin squirmed and tried to wriggle free from his father’s grasp.

I tried to bribe Norrin with ice cream while Joseph tickled him trying to get a giggle. The woman was nice but we couldn’t spend fifteen minutes of a strangers time trying to get the money shot.

After a few clicks, the woman gave me my phone and I thanked her. I didn’t even bother looking through the pictures.

Last year, Huffington Post Writer, Allison Tate, urged moms to stay in the picture after she realized that “too much of a mama’s life goes undocumented and unseen.” Tate got in the picture because she wanted to give her children “that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.” 

I remember reading Tate’s post and thinking back to my own childhood. How much I loved laying on my stomach on a lazy afternoon flipping through photo albums. The walls in our apartment were filled with family photos, faded with age. The photos were reminders of the good times. And looking through pictures was the time to ask questions about my parents and the places they’d been. It was an opportunity to recall past memories and see how we’d grown individually and together as a family.

I want that for Norrin. I know he has an outstanding memory but I want him to have the “visual” of us. I want Norrin to see what our love looks like. And honestly, I want it.

I completely understand why Tate and other moms stay out of the picture. Don’t be fooled by my Instagram selfies – they’re usually of just my face or at a certain angle. I actually hate taking pictures, I’m self conscience of my extra weight and baggage under my eyes (thank goodness for filters). But I love taking them of Norrin and I want to be in the pictures with him. Getting in the picture with my son isn’t my problem.

Norrin has autism. The process of taking pictures can be tough. He has to look at the camera, stand still and smile. He’s a kid easily distracted and following these three steps simultaneously for minutes at a time is not only exhausting but frustrating – for all of us. Norrin will be eight years old in January, he’s too big to hold in our arms and strong enough to squirm out of our laps and grasp.

The reality is, Norrin doesn’t care about the picture. And while he has language and can ask questions, Norrin isn’t going to ask me to get in the picture with him anytime soon.

The not so perfect family picture taken by the woman at the park in Sleepy Hollow that I kept – October 2013

Later when I finally scrolled through the pictures the woman took of us, it hurt. The pictures are a reminder of how challenging even the little things can be for a family like ours. Norrin was on the verge of a meltdown, my smile was plastered on and Joseph looked frustrated trying to keep Norrin still. Her pictures weren’t the ones I wanted to remember of our day. Because it was a good day, it just wasn’t a good moment. So I deleted them all, except one.

We have a handful of ‘good’ family pictures posted on social media and around our apartment. I know some of our pictures can be deceiving. And I know all the pictures that were taken before and after to get the perfect shot. I love each and every one of them – even the ones that hurt to look at. Our pictures tell our stories. They’re our memories. It’s our family. We are not perfect. And neither are our photos.

 

Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.

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