Sometimes I find it hard to live in the moment. With three kids under six my ‘moments’ include pulling my eldest away from literally climbing up the door frame like Spider girl whilst taking tea out the oven whilst attempting to wipe my 2yo’s bum – who is potty training and enjoying the habit of getting up too soon to celebrate every single wee with the sort of victory parade that leaves everyone close by feeling that same way you do stood at a concert when someone throws a cup of something questionable over the crowd. You know that same ‘live in the moment’ feeling of joy yet also dispair.
So I’ll be honest, some of these moments are questionable. I kind of want to live in them yet also have them pass along at the pace of, say, a speeding train.
But saying that I do also suffer from this overwhelming urge to slow down. I watch fascinated as these little people who have stolen our hearts change and grow into bigger versions of themselves and realise that even though it is really bloody hard sometimes this is also happening far too quickly. The questions they ask change, the conversations become at times more difficult but also more interesting, the way they cuddle and touch you changes – our eldest doesn’t fit on my knee the way that she once did and certainly doesn’t ask for kisses as often which fills me with longing for those years that have passed.
I want to bottle the smell of their heads when I tuck them in at night, I want to listen endlessly to the sound of their innocent laughter, I want to freeze in time the moments when we all lie in bed together to read stories or have a great big family sandwich hug with them as the ‘filling’, pushing and squeezing to get as close as possible to our bodies. I can’t seem to describe my longing to keep them this close forever. It goes beyond words, it is a feeling that brings a lump to my throat and is this heady combination of love mixed with that instinctual and fierce need to protect.
And so I do attempt to live in the moment more often. I get it, you can’t stop or turn back time and in the world we live in where everything seems to be about doing more and faster and constantly being bombarded with distractions this seems more important than ever. It takes practise but I feel I’m getting better at it all the time. And I’m also learning to live with my need to remember every last moment with my accompanying crap memory.
So when my relatively new (at the time) friend Anna asked if I’d be up for trying her documentary style family photography I was intrigued and honestly, a little unsure. She would come to our house and spend the whole day with us, from the time we got up (so jammies and all) until the time our littles went to bed.
I mentioned it to my husband,
“Err right, so what will we do all day, just be around the house?”
“Well yes, I think we will just have a normal family day together and she will capture that”
“Isn’t it going to be a bit awkward having someone there all day taking photos”
“Probably, possibly, who knows” was all I could reply. GBK hadn’t met Anna before, he wasn’t to know her kindness, how she immediately puts people at ease, how wonderful she would be with our children and great company all round.
From my perspective I thought it might be fun, I was curious and ultimately just hoped we’d get the odd decent photo to put up and replace the slightly dodgy ones I’ve taken over the years. Little did I know it would be so much more than that. The whole experience was truly wonderful. We left the jobs list, we did all the things that we liked to do as a family (eating, playing, going out for a walk to the park, more eating, tea drinking, story-telling, baking, laughing, more eating) and we did every single one fully present and in the moment.
We spent the day like we would if we were on holiday, together, not tag teaming childcare, not half present whilst we did the washing or rushing around to get to a party. Of course all these things do need to happen in everyday normal family life, I’m not suggesting we can just stop doing household chores. But this day provided a brilliantly stark reminder that we can create these ‘holiday’ moments more regularly. We get to choose what we do with our weekends, with our time and it’s not the location that makes a holiday, it’s the people in it. O.k who am I kidding of course it is partly the location, I mean a pool and some sunshine makes everything better but you get my point. Yes there were odd times when I became aware of a lens in the background (though apparently I was the only self-conscious one) but largely it was just a really fun and relaxed day, the littles loved it.
And as for the photos we received at the end, well they went so far beyond what I imagined. Aside from being so beautiful (man is she talented) we now have these real, honest, vivid memories of this time in our lives. Not just the calmly arranged moments where we all smile nicely at the camera but the messy bits, the funny bits, the stuff you might not think to photograph but actually capture the very essence of how it feels to be in our family and live in our home. Piles of washing, half decorated bedrooms, kids dressed in swimming costumes (?) for some sort of role play game and all. Not to mention that I actually feature in some which is a bonus because usually I am the one holding the camera and in future years I fear our kids will ask if I even existed. I cried when we received them, partly because the moments are captured so perfectly and also because they reflect such deep and real happiness.
We have invested in photography on only one other time in our lives (our wedding) and I’m really glad that we didn’t wait for another big occasion to do it again because these new additions are so valuable. They are us and more. I’m realising that if you are always waiting for the big moments, focusing on getting to the next milestones, thinking about if and when, then you might miss the journey and that, quite simply, is missing the point.
Even if these moments are filled with speaking to yourself constantly, wee splattered walls and the kind of tiredness where you lean against a wall and wake up 5 minutes later, I love that they are now captured so we can smile at them in years to come. And if nothing else we can congratulate ourselves for figuring out a way through it!
(This is not a sponsored post, in fact Anna didn’t want me to write about it at all but I couldn’t help myself. We are now busy concocting other ways to combine our experiences and work together. If you want to find out more about Anna’s photography and her Day In The Life shoots or fancy a nosy at more of the photos from our shoot then you can do so here.)