We knew this day would come. For years, we counted down. We would walk or drive past the school in our neighborhood and say “Nathan, that’s where you’ll go to school next year… next month… tomorrow.” Secretly, I had been looking forward to the little bit of freedom of having one of my boys in school. I had been thinking about what it would mean – having more time to get work done, or more time to spend with my younger boy who has never really had much time alone with me.
But then the countdown reached zero. And everything changed.
I was so proud of him as he walked confidently to the school bus stop. He was excited for new adventures. He was ready to make new friends. I realized that he wouldn’t have any problems. He would be just fine. This eased my anxiety. At least slightly.
He’s such an incredible brother. So loving and thoughtful. So protective and kind. How will Sam feel without him around to play all day?
Shortly after I shot this frame, he blew us two kisses. And my husband and I both broke down crying. For reasons more numerous than either of us could identify, I’m sure. Maybe mostly because we’ll miss him. Maybe mostly because we’re so proud of the young man that he is. Maybe mostly because that’s what he is now: a young man. Not our future plan, not our heartbeat on an ultrasound, not our swaddled baby, not our half-naked toddler dancing through the hallway.
We watched that plan and that heartbeat, that swaddled baby and that half-naked toddler ride away.
Ok, but we also drove to the school to take a few more pictures (or that’s the excuse I use for making sure he survived the ride and found his classroom).
One of the hardest parts about your child leaving you is simply not seeing what he’s doing. Not seeing him laugh, or knowing if he’s being friendly and selfless like you hope he’ll be, or being able to stand up for himself if someone is mistreating him. But I never realized what having him leave us would mean for us.
It meant a quiet Lego table that wasn’t facing epic battles of robots and bad guys with hilarious names whose legs and ship wings would randomly fall off, and all the corresponding sound effects.
It meant a placemat with no new crumbs to clean (woo hoo!). And a spot at the lunch table that wasn’t giggling about the silly things Sam was doing that I couldn’t see.
It meant a dark and quiet room. No radio playing. No feet crashing to the ground with thuds that can be heard two floors below as he is being an American Ninja Warrior jumping off his bed while he is supposed to have quiet time.
No new construction paper creations.
It was a weird day. I didn’t know what to do with my time. My routine was thrown off. I was bored. I watched what must have been the world’s slowest clock as it creeped toward 4:00.
He couldn’t pinpoint his “MOST very, very favorite thing” about his day because there were just too many. He loved it.
He survived. We survived.
And I once again had a greater respect for my parents and everything they silently endured as I raced my way through childhood without any desire to slow down time.
My job is to create photographs. And I absolutely love it. But I often try to separate my job from my family by leaving my camera in my backpack and letting life happen without documenting it. Sometimes I let that go on too long. When I realized that for the past several weeks the only tool I had used to photograph my son was my phone, I was disheartened. It’s my job to document my clients’ lives. Their expressions. Their moments. Their once-in-a-lifetime days. I should focus on doing the same for my beloved family as well. Not every day, of course. But some days. The big days, obviously: holidays, birthdays, events. But what about the insignificant days–if there is such a thing as an insignificant day? What about a random Tuesday in November? A day much like most other weekdays. It seemed like a perfect day to keep a camera by my side. To take it with me to the library, the grocery store, and even in the shower. All to document the awesomeness of the everyday.
Now, I understand that the habits and routines of a two-year-old are probably not worthy of a photography project. This is nothing deep or earth-shattering. This is nothing new or noteworthy. But I have been spending so much time creating photographs for others that it was time to take some for myself. From the trivial to the… well… still trivial, but somewhat more interesting, I wanted to make sure that I always have proof of these moments that Nathan and I share almost daily, because days like this won’t last much longer. And I’m terrified of that fact.
As the day progressed, I realized that though this project was intended to be solely about Nathan, it’s also about me. This is what I see. This is what I experience. The day is just as much mine as it is his, even though I appear in only one of the images I took. The whole day was a great reminder that although photographers primarily document moments, we live them as well. We share a unique bond with our subjects as equal creators of an image. And the observer adds the dimension of eternity to the image and, therefore, to the moment. And these are the reasons why I love my job. And my life. And every seemingly insignificant moment captured along the way.
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