Through my years of being a custodial step-mom, I have always looked for ways to create a bond with my step-daughter. I am not her biological mom and yet she has lived 85% of her life with me and her father for the last ten years. My heart’s desire is for her “enjoy” her life with us instead of “having to” be with us the majority of the time. It’s more than semantics, it’s a matter of the heart and the mind. It’s all about attitude and perspective. Obviously, at different ages, the pendulum has swung both ways from the positive and negative ends. Some years were easier and some were harder.
So, in an attempt to create family experiences and positive memories that we can all look back on fondly, pictures have become VERY important. They serve as my primary vehicle in achieving this goal. I can plan outings, vacations, parties, but if they are not remembered beyond the day, then the feelings are less likely to ever be revisited. Sad. However, with a picture, we can be transported back to that moment in time instantly. We can smile or laugh and remember in awe an amazing moment. A picture is something that can be shared digitally or physically. It’s transportable and meaningful. It helps to build identity. Especially in our children.
Where do I belong? Where do I fit in? Who cares about me? Who sees my heart? Who loves me no matter what? Who will be there when I’m hurting? Who will share my triumphs? These are the questions kids ask, especially teens! The answer to every single one is YOUR FAMILY!! How do I know? Where’s the proof? In the pictures. Look at them. Look carefully. Look at the smiles, the hugs, the homes. Look at the successes, the special outfits, the events. Look at the sports, the schools, the ceremonies. Look at the grandparents, the cousins, the siblings. It’s all there. In the pictures. Pour over them. Study them. They’re a real and tangible representation of how much you are loved!
So take pictures. Take them often. Every day if possible. Get in them, stepmom! Get close-ups. Put them in frames and scrapbooks. There is something very defining and validating for your children to see themselves in pictures with those they do life with. At special times and on plain old days. God put us together for a reason and we complement each other beautifully! Go ahead, look for it. It’s there.
One awesome idea is to take pictures with your family in the same pose, in the same place year after year. Maybe in a special place, with a special item, etc. Many of us have taken those types of pictures with our babies each of their first 12 months of life. But what about our step-kids year to year? Yes, there’s the birthday picture with the cake and the obligatory one in front of the Christmas tree. But what about at a “regular place an on a regular day?” That just might be super fun year to year. Here’s a dad’s perspective on this very topic. An inspiring four-minute TED talk.
It’s all about consistency, which is the mantra of parenting, isn’t it? What speaks volumes to your step-kids more than taking the time to take pictures they will have forever? A picture can warm a heart, calm a fear, and bring a smile. It can conjure up a happy memory long forgotten. I believe we both know the power of a picture.