Are you Mom to a teenage daughter?
Are you looking for connection, encouragement, and tips on how to navigate these crazy teen girl years?
Then grab your camera and your coffee, and join us!
Do you remember what it was like to be a new mom? I remember a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Whether it was our first baby or our third, I remember those first nights, exhausted but so scared. What in the world was I doing? I had no idea how to be a mom! I remember wishing all the time that my babies came with some kind of manual!
Well, fast forward a dozen or so years, and I am realizing that with bigger kids come bigger issues. Bigger worries. Bigger questions. And still, there is no manual.
Recently, I had a wonderful portrait session with some of the sweetest teen girls, who happen to also be students of mine. I even got some of their moms to join us for the afternoon.
Part of the portrait project involved them sharing their advice with me. I wanted to hear their voices, so that I could offer their thoughts to other moms out there who might be looking for some help.
I thought MAYBE I could create a sort of “mini manual” for my moms. I’ve decided to write these out in list and bullet form. Each listed statement has a few bullet points below it. These are the words of the girls themselves. Rather than paraphrase what they said, I’d love to share their exact words with you.
“Teenage drama is not fun.”
“Mean girls are still around, trying to bully me and take me down.”
“It’s hard to live up to the expectations that society puts on us girls.”
“My favorite way to connect my mom is when we sit down and chat right before I go to bed. We talk to each other about the good and bad things that happened throughout our day.”
“I wish moms knew that we need space and we have bad days and we act moody, please try to understand.”
“I wish [my mom] knew that sometimes I just need be alone.”
“My mom’s voice is my inner voice. So the way you speak to your teenage girl will also become her inner voice. I advise you to be mindful of everything you say.”
“Even though your daughter(s) may not admit it, you are the most important thing in the world to them and no matter their age they always need you.”
When asked what they see as most beautiful about themselves, the girls said:
“I think the most beautiful thing about me is my strength. I am a very strong person, and my mom is too. I think I grew up seeing just how much strength my mom has, that I developed it too. I love my mom more than anything, and I'm so glad that we are both strong, beautiful, incredible people.”
“My mind. I believe it’s the most beautiful thing I possess.”
“My compassion for others.”
“My parents always tell me that I have a big heart. I try my best to be a generous person and show my love to those around me. Even when I have my poker face on, one look into my eyes and you will understand every emotion that I am feeling.”
How awesome are these girls? And how awesome are their moms! These moms are doing it right. And you know what, Mom? So are you! Just the fact that you are here, reading up on how you can stay connected to your daughter, how to understand her better- it shows what a great mom you are. So keep it up!
I thought it would be fun to create for you a pretty reminder of these FIVE FACTS. And so that’s just what I did! I created a screensaver FOR YOUR PHONE (how fun!) to help you remember these few tips, and mostly remind you that you’re doing GREAT!
I also want to share with you the link to my FB Group, Love Through The Lens. It’s a group for moms with teen girls, and it’s a great resource to find encouragement and company on this road of mothering teen girls.
We’re doing ok Mom, and so are our girls.
Special thanks to the amazing girls who contributed to this portrait project. And thanks to the amazing moms who are on this journey with them.
Years ago, I decided that on Mother’s Day my kids had to sit for portraits with me. It was the only thing I insisted on for the day, and I knew my husband would make the kids do it for me. I loved the idea of getting a few precious portraits of the kids with me each year to celebrate how much I love being their mom. I envisioned looking back years later, cherishing the photos and memories that we had created around my special day.
It may have gone off without too much of a hitch that first year. I set up the camera exactly as I wanted it, and just asked my husband to press the shutter when we were ready. I got the kids dressed and we simply went out to the back yard. So easy!
But with each passing year, this wonderful tradition because such a chore. The kids hated having to sit for photos, and they would drag their feet, complain, and usually bicker with each other over details. My husband would get stressed because he knew that “simply pressing the shutter” was not as easy as I made it sound. I was never satisfied with the first few shots, and made him and the kids try again and again and again.
One year, one of the boys actually ran back into the house between takes to vomit! I’d like to think it was just a stomach bug and not the stress of the morning.
Each year got more and more difficult until I gave up.
I’m also sharing this story with you because it’s the WHY behind this post. May my own personal suffering bring solutions for the moms in my tribe!
(Is that a little too over-the-top melodramatic?)
Let me share with you THREE SIMPLE TIPS that can help you the next time you decide you want photos with your daughter (or any or all of your kids).
All the self-help books out there tell you to visualize what you want and you will achieve it. Dream big. Picture your perfect situation, down to the last perfect detail, and you’ll be that much closer to achieving it.
Ground yourself in reality and prepare yourself for what’s coming. Because it’s coming. The snarkiness, the eye rolling, the complaints. They’re all coming. Know this, and prepare yourself for it. Have a positive and gracious response for when she asks “WHY??? WHY do we need to do this? Why are you torturing me? Why do you need photos???” Have loving answers for when she says she has nothing to wear. Help her (or stay out of her way), and gently redirect her when she chooses that outfit that you really just hate.
Promise yourself that you’ll bring the good attitude so that your kids won’t have to. They’ll simply (hopefully) feed off of your positive energy and find the experience fun.
Beyond preparing mentally, it’s a great idea to prepare yourself in every other way. Don’t wait until the day of your photos to talk clothing, location, details. Talk to your daughter about the photos, and ask for her input on what to wear. Make sure she approves of what you’ve chosen for her to wear, or make sure you approve of what she’s chosen to wear. Decide together on a location, and keep it simple. You don’t need fancy, you just need good light.
Bottom line is, the more prepared you are beforehand, the smoother it will all go during.
I think this is the most important rule of all. Make an experience out of the outing, whether you splurge on hair and make up before, or grab coffee or lunch together afterwards. This does not have to break the bank, but if you attach something that your daughter would enjoy to this photo event (that you are dragging her to, remember), then you are creating a memory for her that she’ll love.
In fact, ask her to come up with the event. Coffee? Shopping? A movie? Or just a walk downtown together. Tell her you want to make this fun for her, and get her input.
This way, when you look at those photos later, you’ll remember the talk you had over coffee afterwards. You’ll remember how you laughed over dinner. You’ll remember good things.
That’s it! THREE SIMPLE TIPS to make portraits with your teen girl bearable- even potentially FUN!
And of course, the timing could not be better, as we’re just weeks from Mother’s Day. Are you going to try for photos? Do you think I should take my advice and try again? I’m thinking I will. But only if I use these tips.
Now I’ve given you TIPS AND A GUIDE! Happy Early Mother’s Day to you!
One more thing…
If it’s really gonna be that bad, and you want to just skip the attempt, call me.
Maybe I should have led with that tip!
There is one MUST HAVE portrait when it comes to every high school senior that I photograph. It’s not the perfect headshot, and it’s not the one of her standing in a meadow at sunset. It’s not the classic smile, the thoughtful soul, it’s not the senior looking out towards her future.
BUT… knowing this, I know that I have to warn mom long before the session takes place. And I also know that I have to be prepared to talk her down from protests and anxiety, from all the “Oh no, I don’t want to be in any of the photos. I just want ones of her.” I need to let mom know why this is my MUST HAVE portrait, and why she’ll thank me for it someday- IF I do it correctly (and I always do). ;)
Let me share with you why we moms (and I say WE, because I am guilty of this, too) need to step out from behind the camera and join our daughters in front of it. I’ll also share some tips on HOW to do this, but let’s start with WHY.
One of my favorite things to do when I go home to visit my parents, is to pour over old photos with them. I love seeing photos of both my mom and my dad as children, but I also love seeing them as I remember them from my own childhood. I love seeing my mom rocking her 80’s style! And my mom was gorgeous! (still is, if you ask me) There are photos of her with my brother and me, photos of her laughing while my dad tried to steal kisses, and even a photo of her STRESSED OUT because I think the basement was flooding. (yeah, what was my dad thinking taking that???)
These photos are my memory. They will stay with me long after my parents are gone, and they will stay with my kids long after I’m gone.
So what about me? As a mom, how can I deprive my children of the memory of their mother, simply because I’m a little insecure about my aging midsection, or my grays, or whatever. The days are passing, and so are our memories. Giving up my insecurities and letting myself be photographed allows my kids the joy of remembering me- and the joy of telling their own kids and grandkids about me. (It should be noted that my grandmother was gorgeous, too. I know this because I have the photographs!)
My daughter is a smart cookie. I’m guessing yours is, too. So why do we think we’re pulling one over on them when we express our self-criticism in front of them, and then expect them to learn self-love and acceptance? Just what exactly do we think we’re teaching them when we demonstrate such disapproval of ourselves?
Despite what I may think about myself, I’m pretty sure that my daughter thinks I’m beautiful. I think that has more to do with the love that she feels from me than anything else. I’m actually guessing she doesn’t know when I’m gaining weight or losing it, when I’m in need of a root touch up, and when I’m having a stress break out. But she knows when I’m smiling, feeling good, and loving myself. I KNOW that she knows that.
So guess what, ladies? I’ve got to do that more! WE’VE got to do that more! And that means laughing off some insecurity and getting in front of the camera. Show her how it’s done. Show her what it means to love herself. Be an example for her.
So yes, our daughters need the example of self-love. They need role models in us, and that is a great reason on its own to step out from behind that camera and get in front of it.
But it’s not enough. WE need the example too. We can’t just be doing this for our daughters. We need to be doing it for ourselves. We ARE beautiful. Even now, at age… 29 plus a few. We are worthy of self love at age 10, at age 27, and at age 45. And every age before, in between, and after. If we don’t love ourselves, how are we going to show others how to love us? And how are we going to show our daughters how worthy they are?
This is about more than just them. It’s not just for their sake. It’s for ours too.
So, there you have it. A few vital reasons WHY we need to be OK with having our photos taken.
But, wouldn’t it be great if I could offer you a few HOWs, too? I mean, really. What kind of photographer would I be if I couldn’t offer my ladies a few tricks on how to feel more confident and comfortable doing what I’m asking them to do?
As every good woman knows, things are always a little less scary when we do it with a friend. Photos are no different. So start with a few photos with your girl. She’s probably the one girl you feel most comfortable being yourself around, the one who you can laugh with, or get silly with.
I know that everywhere we look, people are posting their photos to social media. But who says we have to share our photos? Start privately, until you get more comfortable with having your photos taking. Wait until you’re comfortable with posing, or lighting, or your smile.
No one needs to see your photos- outside your family, that is. Remember that we need to get in front of the camera to make memories for our families. So let your family in on the photos. But leave Facebook out of it.
Now what could really help you feel better in front of the camera is maybe some kind of collection of tricks or tips. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s just what I’ve created for you!
We owe it to our families to leave a legacy through photos. We owe it to our daughters to be an example of the strong, beautiful women we know they can be. And we owe it to ourselves to remember how beautiful and worthy we actually are.
Worthy of a beautiful portrait, taken with our beautiful daughter. The MUST HAVE of every great portrait session.
It happens every single time. I’ll walk into my daughter’s room and find her sobbing over something horrible that happened at school that day. Or I’ll be making the kids’ lunches, and I’ll look at her lunch tote, and this overwhelming fear will hit me, as I imagine her sitting completely alone at lunch. Or I’ll notice a boy’s name doodled on a piece of paper on her desk and I’ll wonder… what worries me more- that he doesn’t like her back, or that he does?
And every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I will hear my mother’s words playing in my mind, saying, “Girls are SO MUCH HARDER to raise than boys”.
I might have been a teen the first time I heard my mother say those words. And I remember getting defensive, and well, just outright pissed about it. What the heck, Mom? I’m like the greatest daughter to ever walk the earth! Yeah, I think I thought something like that.
In any event, I didn’t really know what she meant, and I took it personally. I still had no clue when I had my own daughter, more than a decade later. No, it wasn’t until my own daughter hit those delicate, hormone driven, emotional roller-coaster, “Holy Cow, who is this stranger in my house and why does she hate me so much?” tween years that I ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY 100% UNDERSTOOD EXACTLY WHAT SHE MEANT.
When it comes to boys, even into the teen years, the fear is more that they will break themselves, or someone else, or someTHING else. I hear my boys wrestling, screaming, banging into walls upstairs, and I think “Oh good GRAVY, please don’t make me have to go to the ER today!” I know that it would be naive to think there won’t be some major worries on the horizon, but even that fear is different. I should also note that I’m very aware that I live seeped in the luxury of white privilege and there are fears I will never have to consider for my boys. But that’s another post for another day, perhaps. The bottom line is that my boys somehow feel solid.
My girl feels so much more delicate, more breakable. When I catch one of my sons checking himself out in the bathroom, I know he’s either sniffing his armpits to see if he needs a shower, or he’s examining his upper lip for evidence of a mustache. But he’s not questioning his value or his worth. When I catch my daughter looking at herself in the mirror, my heart skips a beat. I can see it in her eyes already. She’s questioning something. She’s scrutinizing her hair, or her tummy, or the color of her eyes, or her skin. She’s wondering if she’s pretty. She’s doubting herself. So delicate. So breakable.
Whatever it is that this delicate creature is thinking about, whatever it is that she’s struggling with, questioning, worrying over- somehow it’s my fault. Despite the fact that I see nothing but beauty in her from head to toe, despite the fact that I’m the one girl in her life who hasn’t mistreated her or broken her trust, despite the fact that I’m the one person she’ll always be able to depend on, and despite the fact that I don’t even know who this boy is or that girlfriend, or that “no of course she is not FAT!”, somehow this is my fault. I’m the one who gets the tears, I’m the one who gets yelled at, I get the stomping up the stairs, I get the eye rolling, the silent treatment, all of it. Half the time I don’t even know why, but I’m Mom, so I get it all.
THIS is usually the time when my mother’s voice comes back to me.
I think this is what my Mom meant when she said raising girls was so much harder. This whole paradox of having this girl in your life who has a hold of your heart like nothing you’ve ever known before, this beautiful young creature who means the world to you, and having her also be the one person who can set you off faster than Flo Jo in the 1988 Olympics! This idea that someone can take you from your highest highs to “oh no she did NOT just look at me like that” all before breakfast!
Well, for starters, she can share her secret. That secret that she loves this sweet girl living in her house, but oh my goodness, she is going to lost her… stuff on her if she gets that look from her just one more time! I can’t get over how every single time I share my pain with another mom, that mom just laughs and says, “oh my GOODNESS, I know!!!”. There’s comfort in the community of other moms of teen daughters. I’m finding so much encouragement in connecting with other moms.
It's why I've created a FB Group especially for moms with teen daughters. It's called Love Through The Lens, and it's a place for moms to share their stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a place to ask questions, to learn about mothering and about photography. It's a place for all moms, EVEN IF your girls isn't QUITE a teen yet. All moms are welcome!
Discovering we’re not the only ones going through this- it’s so encouraging. So I’m looking for moms everywhere to commiserate with, to celebrate with, to hold hands and walk through the scary parts with. I know it’s just going to get scarier. My daughter’s 12! This joy ride is just beginning!
One more thing I have the luxury of doing? I can call my mom and laugh and say, “Umm… yeah, remember those teen years of mine? Yeah, I’m SOOOOOOO sorry! And please HELP ME!” I do that every now and again. And sometimes, even through the phone, I can see that smirk of hers, and hear that smile in her voice, and I think, “Yeah, she knows she was right. I HATE it when she’s right!”
Today’s gonna be a sweet and shallow day!
What I mean is that I’ve been taking us rather deep for the last couple of weeks. I’ve shared my thoughts on starting the journey again, we’ve dug deep into our WHYs, and we’ve even set some Mom goals together.
So today, I want to keep things light. After all, sometimes we’ve only got time for light and sweet right? That seems to be especially true for us moms.
Today’s post will take you just a few minutes to read, and just FIVE SECONDS to implement. How’s that for a time saver?
When it comes to photographing our daughters, a lot of elements come into play. There’s directional lighting to flatter her, there’s posing her in ways that show off her best features and that minimize the ones she’s a bit less confident about. There’s the technical side of shooting, knowing what aperture is, and how to blur the background. We’ll get to all of that in the coming posts.
But today’s tip takes 5 seconds, and can take your photos from “snapshot” to “portrait”, all before you even grab your camera.
Simply put, before you press the shutter, take FIVE SECONDS to look around your scene for any clutter, any distractions, any unflattering backgrounds that you can remove to improve your shot.
If you’re in her room, check for dirty laundry on the floor- then remove it (or better yet, have her remove it!).
If you’re outdoors and there are parked cars or dumpsters behind you, reposition her (or yourself) to remove them from the frame.
Look through your viewfinder before you take your shot. Is there a tree seemingly sprouting from your daughter’s head? Move her 2 inches to the left or right and you’re good to go.
FIVE SECONDS! That’s all it takes. It can mean the difference between a cluttered snapshot and a clean, finished portrait.
Get in this habit whenever you take a photo- even a photo on your phone. Consider this your new FIVE SECOND RULE.