When I speak with clients booking a session, one of the first things that I usually hear is “my children probably won’t cooperate.”
No, seriously, I mean that.
I don’t want them to be quiet, perfectly dressed, neat, tidy little children.
Is that your child? Because it definitely isn’t mine. At four, she is all sass and defiance and mess, wrapped up in the cutest little package. (But somehow always sticky. Why are they always sticky?!) Getting her to stand still and smile generally requires a lot of bribery, exasperation, and threats. Believe me, I take a photo of my sweet wild one every day, and the rare times I try to get her to smile, I need a very stiff drink after.
But here’s the thing. I like pictures where my daughter is looking at the camera and smiling. She’s beautiful, in my biased mother mind, and she belongs in photographs. But…those pictures don’t really mean anything to me. They’re cute, and I probably send them to her grandparents and stuff, but twenty years from now, I’m going to look at that picture and think very little, except that she was a very cute little kid.
That’s not what I want from photographs. What I want is her. Pure, unvarnished, completely her. Because she is magic, and every day I wake up, she’s just a little bit older and a little bit different.
Recently I had a terrible thought. My daughter has loved the same baby doll (creatively named “Baby”) since she was two years old. She has a story about Baby at the drop of a hat. Baby is always getting into trouble – and is quite well travelled. My daughter had asked me to retrieve her (Baby is always, always missing), and I thought, someday Baby is going to be forgotten in a box somewhere. Yeah, I’m a terrible person who thinks about these things often. And it stopped me in my tracks. Baby goes everywhere with us. She is the star of the every story. Bedtime would never happen without her.
But someday she won’t matter at all.
It breaks my heart, friends. So you know what I did? I handed my daughter her baby, found some pretty light, and asked her to love her. Because twenty years from now, when Baby is hidden in some box in my attic or passed along to some other child, I am going to miss that.
This is what I want for you. I want for you to look at these photos decades from now and lose your breath for a minute as you remember your precious child just as they were. I want you to show your kids, and tell them “you may not remember this but….”
It will mean more to them than you know. To see who they were, to see who they were to you.
I really hope they will be wild. I hope they’ll run, and play, and get dirty. I might even sort of hope they’ll cry a little, so you can comfort them. Have you ever looked at yourself when you hold your upset child? Probably not, I’ll bet. But you’re beautiful. You’re connected. You are everything to them in that moment, the only one who can set things right and give them peace. You are engaging with a part of yourself that is so instinctive, so inherent in you. It’s truly magnificent.
I know you probably bought adorable clothes. I know they were washed and pressed and there was bribery involved in getting them on. But the clothes will wash; the babies won’t keep.
Let them run. Let them splash. Let them throw sand at me – it’s okay, I promise it won’t be the first time. Let them be completely, entirely, unapologetically themselves.
You won’t regret it. And I’ve got this. We’ll create magic – no yelling or bribes requires (but still go get ice cream after. Always get ice cream).
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