While I almost always have my camera near, kids move really, really fast, and I often end up begging mine to either “hang on!” or even “do that again, please.” Sometimes it pays off and I get the shot I had imagined, but more often, not so much.
Yesterday, Simon was sitting with Clara, generally being a protective and helpful big brother, and it was super endearing. I sneaked away to get the camera and got all set, then asked Simon to look up and immediately clicked the shutter for this shot:
And it totally cracks me up because it’s so not my style. I’ve been trying to put my finger what it is about the photo—the classic studio portrait pose—that makes it so odd to me, just for the sake of discussion. I’m definitely not saying that good portraits have to be all sun flares and bokeh and shots of the family from the knees down, but I tend to lean a bit more to that end of the spectrum in my photography (I do love a good sun flare). So even though it’s sometimes a weensy bit staged (see my confession at the beginning of this post), I say “go about your business” more often than than “give me a big smile.” If anything, especially when I take pictures of my own kids, I’m going by feel, that is, hoping that the photo will be enough of a trigger someday to help me remember what it felt like to be there. Time in a bottle and all that. Then again, sometimes it’s just that the kids have on ridiculous outfits or have fallen asleep in a funny position.
I’m just musing here and not by a long shot trying to hammer out a philosophy of my artistic intentions. In any case, yesterday after the so-not-my-style capture, I kept shooting and ended up with a few that were more what I was going for in reaching for the camera while the cable guy was here to bring the magic of the Olympics to our living room.
We were finally on our way to the park to meet our friends. It had been a hurried morning, and I had already changed my mind three times about whether and where we would spend the blazing hot morning outside. Since breakfast had been sketchy (in a moment of later-to-be-revised-planning, I thought we would be coming back home to eat), I stopped at Scooters to supplement the dry cereal the boys had brought along for the ride. I ordered an iced tea for me and just one muffin to share among the kids (my two boys and Tasha’s kids).
Simon was not happy with my plan. He protested loudly and mournfully. I don’t remember exactly how it all went, but I do remember being exasperated and saying something like, “Simon, you will either share the muffin, or I will give it back to Scooters!” He launched into a ridiculous fit of unintelligible wails, punctuated with clear “I don’t WANT to share!“s and “it isn’t FAIR!“s. Obviously, this was not the time to have a heart-to-heart about the value of sharing and empathy, and, well, he couldn’t hear my yelling over his own, so I held tight to the wheel and tried my best to tune out his weeping and gnashing of teeth (I may or may not be exaggerating that in my memory of the incident).
And then, somewhat abruptly, he stopped thrashing and howling. I’ve learned not to look gift silence in the mouth—or directly in the eye—lest it flee. I drove on.
After a minute or two, he said to me, “Hey, Mommy? Do you remember when you said that I’m the kind of kid who says he won’t and then he does it?”
Yes, I did remember. Almost two full weeks before, we had been at Rebecca’s house. When we were getting ready to give the warning signal that we were getting ready to think about leaving, Rebecca asked Simon to pick up one of the toys the kids had been playing with. He didn’t do it right away, and after several minutes she made a comment to me that it wasn’t such a big deal. I responded that I was pretty sure he would do it. You know that story that Jesus told about the two brothers in the vineyard where one said he would do it but didn’t and one said he wouldn’t but did? Simon says he won’t, but then does. Almost every time. (And, yes, he did pick up the toy that day.) I actually didn’t remember that Simon had even been in the room. He made no indication at the time that he knew I was talking about him.
“Yeah, buddy. I did say that, didn’t I?”
“I said I wouldn’t share, but I will. Daddy says you always have to do the right thing, even when you don’t want to.”
Even as I am writing this out, another week or two later, it still makes me catch my breath. What a tremendous responsibility we have, and what an unbelievable privilege. This is not the first time I’ve been reminded that the kids are listening all the time. Seriously. ALL the time. Nor is it the first time that I’ve heard something repeated with freakish accuracy (for better or worse) by one of the boys and had no doubts about its source. That Simon not only listened to what I said but also took those words so much to heart was hugely encouraging and, of course, a little frightening too. The implications are as humbling as they are obvious.
In the days that followed it occurred to me that Simon really latched onto that particular phrase—“the kind of kid who . . .” I wondered if it could be useful. My Grandpa Johnson always said, “Tell kids they are good, and they’ll be good,” and I believe that, almost without qualification. I tested it out with some obvious ones: you’re the kind of kid who shares with his brother; I want you to be the kind of kid who says “Sorry” when you hurt someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose. And, sure enough, it was—and continues to be—a helpful way of communicating expectations without resorting to pleading and cajoling. That is, as a parenting tool, it’s working. (So far I haven’t overused it, I don’t think, but you can see how it would be really tempting: you’re the kind of kid who picks up his toys without being asked to and does his own laundry; you’re the kind of kid who makes Mommy an iced coffee and plays quietly with your siblings so Mommy can read.)
But (or maybe I should say “and”) as I’ve reflected on this, I’ve been wondering where to go from here. For a four-and-a-half-year-old, it seems completely appropriate. But as he matures, I don’t want him to get stuck in being “the kind of kid who” anything. . . . Well, unless you count being the kind of kid who loves Jesus and obeys his Mommy and sleeps in his own bed all night.
Keeping things out of Clara’s mouth. This is pretty much my new full-time job. (Girlie is doing great. Surgery story still to come.)
Drinking gallons of Margie’s water and also iced coffee.
Free-lensing. Oh, man. I’m having so much fun with this technique. (The pic of Clara in this post is one of my first attempts.)
Teaching Ian to swat flies. Highly entertaining.
Reading My Life in France and A Homemade Life and becoming inspired to cook and/or bake again.
Also reading Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams.
Making my bed each day. I’ve never been a bed maker, but I’m rather enjoying the effect.
Thinking about trying another Whole 30. I think I’ve convinced my friend Lauren to join me this time.
Watching old episodes of Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs with Simon.
Listening to Fleet Foxes radio on Pandora.
Thrifting. I actually have never been much of a thrifter, but I found an end table at the Fremont Goodwill for $15 and have had the bug ever since. I’ve also picked up another end table, a 4-cup French press, and a couple of vintage pillowcases and an apron that I intend to make into dresses for Clara.
Rearranging some rooms in our house. Specifically, moving Jason’s office downstairs and making a nursery for Clara.
Supressing the major wanderlust that rises especially in the summer. The cabin fever from staying indoors out of the heat is only making things worse.
Sometime soon I will try to corral my thoughts about Clara’s surgery, but for now a couple of images from yesterday.
Saturday morning my dear friend Maggie invited us to her dad’s place to meet the animals. We tried our hand at feeding the pigs and chickens, gathering eggs (well, egg), “driving” a tractor, and picking apples in the orchard to feed the horses. Maggie made quite an impression on the boys, and by the end of the day, Ian had declared her one of his “bess frenns.” It was such a fun morning, one that none of us will soon forget.
My name is Renae, and The Grand is where I keep thoughts, observations, and photos from my life.