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Parents

Why I'm Grateful A Stranger Took My Picture

Kendra, 1; Olivia, 2; take candid photo with mom and baby sister Addison along a bike trail in West Des Moines, IA.
Kendra, 1; Olivia, 2; take candid photo with mom and baby sister Addison along a bike trail in West Des Moines, IA.

There are a million reasons I could delete this picture from my iPhone.

My hair looks whack. And my thighs? HELLO. At least sweet baby Addison tucked inside my Solly wrap distracts from my postpartum belly rolls. But there’s no hiding Kendra who’s in full meltdown mode because I took her sippy cup after she chucked it onto the sidewalk. And Olivia? Don’t mind her. She’s just staring down a goose we passed to make sure it’s not coming after her package of strawberry fruit snacks.

Still, I love this picture.

I love it because it’s real. It’s not posed. And it’s an accurate representation of what life looks like for us in this season.

It’s not perfect, but it’s us.

And it was taken by a stranger.

It was a typical afternoon pushing 45-pounds of toddlers in a double-stroller while wearing my 7-pound baby comfortably in a Solly wrap.

Except this day, I squatted in the middle of the bike trail to take a selfie.

You see, during the week while my husband is at work, I’ll occasionally text him a selfie of us [half joking but sometimes kinda serious] with a caption, “Still alive,” or, “Send wine.”

He knows that while this whole three-kids-under-three thing is a fun gig, it’s also exhausting and challenging and demanding.

Taking this selfie along the bike trail was different though.

A stranger was watching ― a woman, jogging in the distance.

When she passed us on the trail, she slowed down. Then she stopped and turned around.

“Do you want me to take your picture?” she asked as she caught her breath.

She had clearly seen my rather pathetic attempts at a selfie just moments earlier.

“Sure!” I gave her my iPhone, and she snapped a photo.

And just like that, she was gone, pounding the pavement in her sneakers until the only reminder I had of her was a candid photo of my three daughters and me.

As I pushed the stroller toward home and refereed a toddler debate about what animals Old MacDonald saw first on his farm, I smiled.

I smiled because this is my life.

These moments along the bike trail may not be glamorous. They may not be pretty or posed or even planned out. But they’re real.

And to me, these unfiltered, raw moments with my children ― however unglamorous they may be ― are the ones that matter most.

I’m grateful that stranger on the bike trail reminded me of that.

A version of this story first appeared on ShelleySkuster.com. Follow Shelley on Facebook and Twitter.