Friday, December 12, 2014
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Sometimes I cry when I'm happy. I don't know if this is something other people do but I do know that it confuses my 9-year-old daughter, Teagan. The other day a particularly emotional song came on the radio and tears filled my eyes. Seeing me well up, she climbed onto my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck and placed her cheek on mine. “ It's okay mamma”, she purred softly.
Through a smile and tears I looked up at her. “Honey,” I choked, “I'm crying because I'm happy”. She pulled back thoughtfully then admitted, “I've never done that before.”
“Well”, I said after a few moments, “I think grownups cry when they're happy because they know how sad life can be.” There was silence while she took in that concept and then the moment passed and we were on to other things.
Life is sad. As adults we know all too well the depth of loss and loneliness that can overwhelm us. All around us we witness or experience broken marriages, failed relationships, lost pregnancies and passing of loved ones (yes, I have had them all). There is no escaping it. No magic pill that makes everything okay all the time. And so we go on living and try to forget or deny or justify or rationalize the depressing times so the unbearable ache that seeps into your soul and stops you from caring doesn’t take over and leave you with nothing to hang on to. Sometimes we are successful… for the most part.
Hopefully we learn, over time, that good times will come again. That our spirit, which feels irrevocably crushed will rise up and joy will fill our hearts once more. I’ve learned, over the years to try and face the sadness. To go to that deep painful place and stay there for a while. I cry, I get mad, I regret. I do what ever I have to do (wallow if you like) in the moment so I can move on and be rid of it and not have it fester or worse hide away and come back to haunt me later in life. It’s taken me decades to learn to embrace and not ignore the depressing times in my life. I am no longer a believer in a stiff upper lip when it comes to emotional pain.
My daughter suffers from melancholy. I'm not surprised. It runs in our family. Every now and then she sinks into a very quiet, melancholic mood. I know how she feels. How confusing and frustrating it is to feel so utterly well… sad. I watch her slipping away and I can’t help thinking to myself, she’s too young for this. It’s not fair.
Last night was one of those nights. As she lay in my lap, limp and weepy I stroked her hair and tried to think of what to say or do to help her. It’s horrible to watch your child try to deal with emotions beyond their years. To know they are struggling to understand why they have suddenly been overwhelmed with sadness – at the age of 9!
Sometimes I can figure out what’s triggering it. But as she gets older and becomes more private it's harder for me to identify the thing that renders her helpless and feeling alone. I was lucky last night. I think. Her teacher is leaving today. For someone who tends to make strong emotional attachments to people and places, my daughter is hit hard at the end of each school year. She dreads having to say goodbye to her favorite teacher. This time it is worse, her substitute teacher won’t be walking around the halls after tomorrow. She’ll be gone, forever!
As parents, what do we do during times like this? What do we say? I could have told her it would all be fine. To try and remember when she had to say goodbye to all the other teachers over the years and hey look… she survived, didn’t she? But instead the next morning I poured her a big cup of hot coco and packed up three Oreos for snack. Yes, I’m one of those moms who thinks kids should eat sugar. Especially when they’re feeling blue. There will be enough time when they are grown to go on diets and deny themselves the pleasures of chocolate! And then I sent her off to school telling her to be sad. “It’s okay to be sad. You love your teacher. So hug her and tell her you love her and give her the cookies and card you made and if you want to - cry. Feeling sad when you loose someone means you made a connection with them. It means you are able to feel and give love. That’s such a special gift to have. So be sad but try, when you’re ready, to see the happy.” I think she understood the first part of what I said but maybe not the second part. Not yet.
In the movie Harold and Maude (my all time favorite movie) Maude make it her project to teach Harold how to stop ‘wondering what it’s like to be dead’ and start living. “L… I… V… E.. live…live… live” she chants. "Get out there and play the game. Otherwise you got nothin’ to talk about in the locker room”. When Maude dies Harold cries uncontrollably. He has just lost his best friend and his lover. The pain must have been unbearable. But the final scene of the movie says it all. Banjo in hand (Maude taught him to play) he walks along a mountain top playing his banjo and doing a little dance. Cat Stevens’ If you want to be free be free fills the air – we are left with a feeling of immense loss and sadness but also hope and glint of a happiness on the horizon. It makes me cry every time.
My daughter will suffer from melancholy and perhaps depression her whole life. I have no idea how severe it will get and I know I can’t make it go away. But I can teach her not to be afraid of sadness, or reject it. I can teach her to talk about her feelings. I can teach her to embrace those feelings, feel them and then let them go. And then find the good and keep living.
And someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll have the joy of watching my daughter cry because she’s happy.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Another busy week - split between newborns and my cute older kids.. these were from the 'Some of My Favorite Things" mini special (going on until Dec 12th). I love it... surprised for grandparents, holidays card images... it's nice sometimes to do a quick top up session when you don't need a full portfolio! As for my adorable newborns... they keep me busy and on my toes but I LOVE spending time with them!
Sunday, November 16, 2014
A a few images from the past week... it may be almost Thanksgiving but the color outside is still amazing. I think we're done with the outside sessions though (unless we get a warm blast). It's been a wonderful session to be outside on the North Shore but I'm looking forward to all my new little babies scheduled for their newborn sessions in the next few months!!
Friday, November 7, 2014
When learning to let go turns ‘losing’ into winning
When Teagan (who’s now 9) was nine weeks old she slept through the night for the first time. Up to this point, every night she had carefully been tucked into her little sleep slack and placed between me and her dad. I was late having my daughter (40) and the joy and love I felt each night when I snuggled up next to her is indescribable. I loved listening to her little breaths flowing in and out and sometimes stayed awake just to watch her sleep. Those are memories that will stay with me forever. But when that fateful night came and she made it through the night without needing me I knew that I had to move her to her crib. If I didn’t do it then she’d be sleeping with me until she was a teenager.
Letting go of those precious times that I knew would never come again was one of the hardest things I did when she was a baby. But I was determined from the beginning to raise an independent little person. And I knew I had to put my desire to keep her close to me aside and start to let go.
We want our children to be strong and independent and confident while at the same time wanting to protect them from anything and everything that crosses their path. Watching them grow and experience life can be the most amazing thing in the world to witness but it can also produce some of the most heart felt sadness and frustration ever experienced.
Over these past nine years I’ve watched my child struggle with and overcome a lot. She learned to ride a bike only last year. It terrified her. Summer after summer she would refuse, try, have tantrums, refuse again. We pushed for a while and then learned to accept that kids go at different paces and she’d get there when she was ready. As much as I wanted her to succeed I had to sit and watch her fail. I will never forget the smile on her face and pride in her voice when she came home from her dad’s one day, pulled out her bike and started to ride around the driveway. “Look at me mom… I can do it!”.
Her world was rocked last year when she learned she had Dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading difficult when taught with traditional methods. How was I going to protect her from this? Once again there was nothing I could do to make it go away. I watched my daughter shut down and give up. I watched her put her fingers in her ears and hide when I tried to talk to her about it. My heart broke each time she cried or got angry or refused to accept or even try to understand what it all meant. But I kept at it and did research to find ways to understand it myself and get through to my smart, beautiful daughter. We, together, just needed to figure out how to embrace it.
In less than a year I have watched Teagan go from denial to understanding. She has worked with me but so clearly also in her own head to come to terms with the situation. Yesterday she said to me ‘mamma, I have dyslexia which means I have a gift. That makes me special’. Yes, Teagan, that makes you very special!
This week was the school science fair. I have never seen Teagan so engaged and interested in a school related activity. Last year she did a project but it was clear she didn’t really understand it was a learning experience. I’d say she put about 20% into it. This year she was excited. She practiced her ‘talk with the judges’ over and over. She was so proud of herself for the work and effort she had put into her project. She so clearly wanted to win. This is the first time I’ve seen her care… care about doing a good job, care about winning. Did she win. No. Did my heart sink when her name wasn’t called. Yes. I looked over at her and tried to gage her feelings. All I wanted to do was rush to her and tell her how she should have won and how she won in my eyes and next year we’d try harder. I wanted all that caring and hard work to be rewarded so she’d continue to try, continue to care. I wanted to scream, “IT’S NOT FAIR”. I wanted to protect my daughter from feeling sad, rejected and worthless.
But I didn’t do any of that. I went over to her and told her how very proud I was of her but more importantly how proud she should be of herself. I asked her, was she disappointed? Yes. That’s okay I said. It’s okay to be disappointed. You worked hard and wanted to win but you should be proud of all you did do no matter what the outcome.
Watching your kid lose is tough. Boy is it tough. It kicks in all sorts of over protective hormones that make you want to wrap your arms around your kid and make it so they never have to feel or experience failure. But…. If we want independent, confident, strong kids we have to let them fail. I watched a movie about Ray Charles once. In this scene he had finally become completely blind and he and his mother are in the house. He drops something on the floor and can’t find it. As he cries and flails around on the floor trying to find it his mother rises from her chair. The instinct to help him is strong. But she slowly sits back down and watches as he struggles. She knew she had to let go. She had to let him find his own way or he’d never be strong enough to make it in the world. That scene has stuck with me and I turn to it when I need strength to let go.
I’m not one of those moms who thinks, ‘everyone should win’. I don’t approve of every kid getting a metal when they run a race or having a field day that’s ‘not about winning’. I believe in competition. Kids LEARN when they LOSE. They learn to get up, wipe themselves off and get back in the game. They learn that self worth and effort and enthusiasm shouldn’t be connected to winning something. That life should be led and experience for the sake of it. And if you happen to win at the science fair or soccer game or spelling bee that’s fantastic, but not necessary. Losing builds character, makes you stronger and more confident in yourself as a person.
We have to let our kids go so they can feel what it’s like to fail and they will fail, over and over. But the beauty is they’ll recover and that makes them stronger. By letting go we turn losing into winning. And if we’re lucky they will stay close enough to let us help them when we can. Teagan, at 9, loves to sleep with me when she can. It’s not often but it is a gift I am awarded from time to time when my independent, gifted child chooses to come close and let me wrap my arms around her.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
The top picture is out of the camera - the one below is edited. Sometimes people seem to question the reason to pay for the service of a professional photographer. I hope this helps answer some of those questions.