Send a present to Future You

IMG_3172One of the more fascinating discoveries of psychology is the relationship we have with our future selves. We tend to view them as different people. That’s one reason people take on obligations in the future that they wouldn’t take on now, and perhaps one of the reasons people find it difficult to save too. It’s not you who has to deal with the fall out. It’s someone else!

I like to think of myself as relatively future-focused. I was recently filling out a survey where you had to agree or disagree with various statements, and I had no trouble choosing “strongly disagree” for the statement “I live my life as if there is no tomorrow.” No one is guaranteed tomorrow, of course, but I think the odds are good, so I floss and eat my vegetables all the same.

That said, I still sometimes find it difficult to be in a good mental state about things done specifically for the future. I was thinking of that this past weekend when we took family photos.

I love having family photos. I love seeing how cute my kids were at different ages, and I know they change fast. We are now out of the baby stage. I snap candids with my iPhone, but then we aren’t all in them and the odds of the light or framing being good are small. So I hired Yana Shellman to come do family photos again this past weekend.

Yana is wonderful. My kids, on the other hand, can be a pain in the butt. The 2-year-old was running everywhere, pretty much refusing to sit still, which I suppose is understandable, but then the 7-year-old started being naughty about the photos too. He’d hide, or scowl, and generally cause trouble. We kept trying to get everyone together and looking at the camera, but when you get my kids in close physical proximity to each other, they’re highly likely to start fighting. Yana assured me this was all normal for family photography, and she took it in stride, but I was a bit of a stress case much of the time.

So, deep breaths. And then a thought: “Hey future you, this is your present. OK? Are you happy now? I am doing this for you.” As parents, we do things all the time that we wouldn’t particularly enjoy on our own (hello, sitting through a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s) because someone else is going to enjoy them. Rather than think of family photos as something I should be enjoying in the moment, I put them in the category of something I’m doing for someone else I’m fond of. As in, my future me.

And hey, we survived. Hopefully there are at least a few good ones in there! And, like dentist visits, I only need to do this once every 6-12 months.

Photo: Picture of the little guy from when he was really little. Still need to get this one framed! 

7 thoughts on “Send a present to Future You

  1. True story: Last fall we took family photos, with a really great local photographer. Three of the four of us cried (first my 6 yo daughter, then my 2 yo son, and then me all the way home). Both of my kids turned into total nutballs, and were So. Naughty. My 2 y.o. actively resisted even looking at the camera. I was so mad at everyone that I had to leave the house after we got home. There will NOT be family photos again for at least a few years. Best/Worst quote from the whole scene, “It’s like no matter how low I set my expectations, they’re never low enough!” Ooof.

    1. @LD – one photo session we had a few years ago that was the least stressful was one of just our kids, when we had 3 of them. We were forbidden to be in the room. I have no idea what they did — I was just checking email! But of course they also insisted that everyone be over age 3, which I guess is the point where they can be reasoned with or bribed.

  2. To save money one year, we decided to take our (2) kids’ Christmas photos by ourselves. At the time, it was crazy making but we ended up with one great one that I still love (16 years later).

  3. Bribery has usually worked for me for photos, but the approach that’s worked best for me, even though it’s a bit of a pain, is that we take them fairly often. A favorite local photographer does monthly “minis” where we are in and out in under 10 minutes at a low cost with 1, maybe 2 shots. I do that fairly regularly of just the kiddos, then we do family photos 1-2 times a year. We go so frequently that it allows for some not-so-great ones. There is always a gem at least once or twice a year so there’s less pressure with each individual session. Plus, the kids are super familiar with the photographer so each time is pretty easy – they are familiar with the routine.

    With the family sessions, I figure, if I look good and I like how I dressed everyone, then they can look like goofballs/cry/hold toys/etc. and it’s just a great memory of what life was like at that time! 🙂

  4. I’d hazard a guess that there will be some GREAT photos from your session. Your photographer was great, and honestly, if you’re in a beautiful setting and you have a good photographer, pretty much anything can look great. Even kids who don’t sit still or who make faces.

    Whenever I do family sessions, parents will often get so worried that nothing is going to turn out, and they get so stressed…but it’s always fine.

    Now, if you’re in a studio setting, there’s a LOT more stress and a lot more difficulty getting good shots. But in your house or at a park, when you’re going for a more casual feel anyway, it’s way easier!

  5. I am borrowing this trick the next time we have family photos because you are right – I HATE doing them, the kids are always brats, but when I get the photos I don’t remember that, I’m all gushy. Thanks!

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