A few days ago I brought my “fancy” camera up to my bedroom. To clarify, I should explain that “fancy” in my house means something that isn’t my cell phone. It’s a Nikon D80 and I have spent many hours over the past few years taking random photos with it. It’s a hobby, I guess? I actually still don’t know what the hell I’m really doing but I keep trying and that should count for something, right? Anyway, I was in my room folding laundry waiting for the sun to set. I’m kind of dorky like that. I wanted a photo of the sun setting before the spring leaves fill in on the trees.
Even though I was just minding my own business, it wasn’t too long before my children found me. And by the way, nobody ever told me that I’d never have one second of alone time once I had children. Kids are like little bloodhounds. It’s like they can smell peace and then they must seek and destroy. Sadly, folding laundry is my peace. Don’t judge. The first thing my 7- year-old noticed was the camera sitting on the bedside table.
“Why is this in your room?” Teagan asked.
“Well, I’m waiting for the sun to set. I was going to take a photo.” I explained.
“Cool.” she said with a little giggle.
“Cool, huh? Am I cool, Teagan?” I teased her.
Then more giggling as she clarified. “Um…well..I meant your camera was cool.”
“Ya like that, huh?” I said.
“Yes. There are a lot of buttons. How does it work?” she asked.
At that moment, I saw her light up in a way that every mom dreams about. She was smiling a genuine smile and I swear her big blue eyes had a little sparkle. She was intrigued by something that also interested me and that makes my heart happy. Of all my children, I would consider Teagan my most artistic. She just seems to see the world in a different way. I’m not saying she’s the next Van Gogh, I’m just saying she’s got an artistic side. It was in that moment that I went against my inner OCD self. I suggested what I had never suggested to any other child of mine.
“Would you like to learn how to use it?” I asked
“What!! Really? Yes,Yes,Yes!” she responded eagerly.
I couldn’t believe that I was letting my 7-year-old use one of my favorite possessions. Nothing is sacred anymore. I put the camera strap around her neck. If she accidentally dropped it at least this would save us from a complete and total disaster. As a new mom, some 11 years ago, I would have handled this situation differently. That person would have hovered over her and helped her hold it. I would have explained that this isn’t a toy. I would show her all the fancy buttons and how many great things it could do. I would have probably done one with her as an “example” on how to frame a photo and we would have talked about angles and other crap that a 7-year-old is completely NOT interested in. But I’ve changed. Maybe I’m already burnt out on raising children or perhaps I’m sick of hearing myself say the same things over and over. Maybe I actually trust her or maybe I finally realize that kids need to figure stuff out on their own. I don’t know what happened but I’m a changed women. I gave her the camera, showed her how to turn it on and which button to press to take a picture. That’s it. What happened next was one of those awesome moments you get as a parent.
She was glowing with pride and excitement. She had creative freedom and she took full advantage. She took pictures of literally anything in her path. The bedside table, the reflection of herself in the mirror, a basket, Maggie making a silly face, the dog’s nose. I think she must have taken 100 photos within 10 minutes and I could care less because every single time she saw an image that she created, it built her confidence. It’s a confidence that every child deserves to feel. “Look at this one Mom!” “Isn’t this one funny?”
I laid on my bed half watching her as Maggie crawled all over me. “Great job Teagan! I knew you would love that thing.” She giggled and snapped more and more and more pictures until she was completely satisfied. “I’m all done Mom. Thank you! That was really, really fun!” “You’re welcome Tea. You did a good job. Thanks for treating my camera nice.”
She took the strap off, placed the camera on the bedside table and skipped out of the room with Maggie. I glanced out the window and it was pitch black outside. I missed the sunset but that’s ok. There will be another sunset tomorrow. I plopped my head on the pillow and picked up the camera. 156 photos taken. The number alone made me smile. Any adult would have walked in my room in that situation and walked back out. It was THAT boring! Any adult would have agreed that there was certainly nothing worth photographing but Teagan found 156 things. I started thumbing through the photos and most of them were silly or boring but towards the end of her series they improved dramatically. One in particular stopped me in my tracks. I paused and smiled. My eyes filled with tears of joy. There was this one photo. It sums up my whole life as a mom. It was candid and it was real. A truly genuine moment of happiness in my daily crazy life. I love it. It’s a moment caught on film, through the eyes of a child.
I made a mental note to let my children fly and grow independently more often. Life is too short to worry so much.