What Family Photography Taught Me About Parenthood
I remember when I graduated college, I told everyone that what I wanted to be was a professional student. Even after four years, I felt like I had to walk away from an opportunity to learn about so many things I was interested in. The problem with satisfying graduation requirements -- all in the name of a well-rounded education, no doubt -- is that you don't get the chance to take the courses that align more with your passions than with those that will hopefully help you get a job.
I never got to take that class on Shakespeare I tried to get into semester after semester. If I'd had my druthers, I'd have much preferred to major in my minor (or outside concentration, technically speaking) of Classical Studies because I could learn and talk about ancient Roman civilization and culture endlessly. But since I didn't want to teach or learn Latin ("a dead language" my dad always cautioned me), I went the more prudent route of majoring in Public Relations.
But this isn't a conversation on college majors, if they even matter as much as they used to, or paths not taken. It's me realizing that I am the perpetual student I always wanted to be. Everyday I continue my education and it grows, changes, and evolves with every lesson I learn, every mistake I make, every test I take.
It's just that I'm not majoring in the arts. I'm majoring in motherhood.
The day we took these photos, I was feeling so excited about our day! I'd worked all week putting our two coordinating looks together. Harlow had some beautiful pieces to wear from locally made children's clothing line Selah Bea, and I'd found a couple pretty dresses that went with her pieces. I was organized. I was on time. It was Friday and I was all like "let's DO this!!"
Except from the time we met Kathy Beaver (our photographer) 'til we parked at the Arboretum, rain clouds replaced the sunshine, which also proved an apt metaphor for Harlow's darkening mood. My sweet, pliable daughter decided to go on an independent streak and would not cooperate or listen to anything I said. Holding hands -- no way, José. Walking side-by-side -- forget about it. Sitting in my lap, snuggling, even playing games -- no, no, and no. If I wanted her to do something, she wanted to do the opposite.
Now, I imagine nobody is reacting to this with an ounce of surprise or shock. She's a toddler now, and girl's gonna do what she wants to do. It's just that she decided to go on this independent streak for the very first time on this day, with me by myself, getting rained on in my white dress, desperate for Kathy not to get super annoyed at us, and totally at a loss for what to do. I had nothing in my well-stocked bag of tricks that worked -- not even my ridiculous fish face caught on camera LOL -- and I felt that I looked like a sad excuse for a mom. Honestly. That I had no control over my daughter, and that my discipline was either too soft or too stringent. When I went in the bathroom to change Harlow's diaper, I cried a little bit.
But. As usual, the "I'm a bad mom" story I was narrating in my own mind was not what anybody actually thought. Kathy, a mom herself, was totally understanding and sympathetic. She never once balked at the craziness and helped me think through the situation. We changed clothes, took a breath, read Harlow a book, and went back outside for one more try. And wouldn't you know that the sky was blue again?
Now. Would you have guessed ANY of this by looking at these photos??
We have hard, haaaard days as parents. Days are long, years are short as they say. I know I had many a day that felt like I was not going to make it. And yet I can't really remember when they were. I bet I took a photo that day, when I was so tired I could barely put one foot in front of the other, when Harlow blew her diaper out right after I leaked breast milk all over my shirt right before I forgot what I was doing five minutes ago because mom brain. I have no clue what happened the day I took most of the photos I look back at and smile and cry happy tears. All I see is that baby that grew up in the blink of an eye and I only wish I had taken more pictures to capture that moment in time.
The difficulty I experienced on the day we took these pictures is gone like water under the bridge. Yet these amazing photos are forever. I can look back on Harlow's wobbly steps as a new walker. I can laugh at her running from me and hear the shrill excited scream she lets out when we chase her around. I can see that she's beginning to understand there is so much to experience around her. Who has time for sitting still when God gave her two legs and this great big world to explore?!
I learned about where my growing child is in this new phase. I learned (again) that just as you find yourself comfortable in your routine your kid changes and it starts all over. I learned that other moms are so dang supportive in the ups and the downs.
I learned it's a hell of a lot easier to have Mike with me on photo shoots!
The school of motherhood is no walk in the park. Except on those days you get to dance in the gardens with your greatest gift.
Even if it's for a second. All it takes is one fleeting moment to make a forever memory.
Thanks to Kathy Beaver Photography for this amazing Mommy + Me photo session!
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Harlow's wardrobe c/o Selah Bea