This is also what mom feels on the inside being the parent of a two year old. Sometimes I just want to sit on the sidewalk and throw a tantrum, too.
I posted this picture over the weekend, and I realized the power of visual images to spark conversation. Mari’s husband asked me why I had posted it, and after I clarified that it was Potamus (and not somehow a picture of me), I was struck with the thought that I often put things out into the world (writing, photos, words) that have a definite meaning to me, but may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. Or maybe there’s room for both my interpretation and someone else’s experience of my image to both be true and right at the same time.
It made me think of poetry, and how I loved the college classes where I had to buckle down and analyze a few lines of poetry, trying to figure out the word choice and how it intersected with history and the author’s life. And yet, when I write my own poetry, I am hardly so careful as to make sure I choose the word eggshell vs. white in describing that lady’s shirt. Though sometimes I am that careful, but how does the reader/listener know my intention fully when they bring their own thougths, life experience, emotions to the table?
The conversation about my child’s image, which I had taken in a moment of pure love, noticing that tiny little mole that dotted his neck (in contrast to the many moles that are all over Boof), my mind wandered to the thought that this is how I one day could identify his body if he were to die tragically. Maybe it was morbid, or practical, we argued a bit about it, but the exchange clearly showed different perspectives, neither right or wrong. I looked at that “morbid” detail of identifying a body by a little birthmark from a future-nostalgic motherhood place, the remembrance of his less-baby-more-little-man stillness as he sat on my lap in the sunshine watching TV and I stroked his little curls that look like mine did at that age. I don’t know what prompted him to comment on this particular picture (of the thousands I’ve posted), but I’m glad he did, because the dialogue and thought process made me take a tiny moment and examine it in light of all the things I do online (or in person, too).
It makes me wonder about every picture I post or text and the story that’s being told on the receiving end, or the intercepting end, or when you turn to your neighbor and say “hey look at this.” Maybe it’s my arrogance, or self absorbed way of living, but I often think that the way I intend a picture to be interpreted will be how it’s interpreted. But like the lines of poetry that I analyzed in college, we bring our own biases toward it, and meaning may be lost or changed or questioned, and it’s really a neat process if you think about it.
After college I took a communication class that detailed how miscommunications can form, and as she diagrammed Speaker A putting words into the universe, and Speaker/Listener B hearing and interpreting the word, it struck me that it’s really a miracle any of us can communicate effectively. Even recently in conversations with Boof, I said a word, that to me has a ‘standard definition,’ and we clearly were talking about different things, from different perspectives based on our gender, age, life experience, etc. It’s a really remarkable process to sit and sift and be vulnerable to get to the point where understanding occured.
That one image sparked a thousand words, a thousand questions. I might have posted it and forgotten about it, like I’ve done with the thousands of other images. But the dialogue brought me back, and almost like a meditation drishti point, I will think of that moment I thought how beautiful my child was, and how sad I would be to have to identify his body by that tiny little mole.
I hitched Potamus onto one hip and entered the door code early yesterday morning. We were running late because of the rain and traffic, and Potamus was dawdling in the parking lot wanting “up, up!” instead of splashing through the puddles like he normally does. I set him on the counter inside, signed him in, and was cheerfully accosted by the daycare director holding out a packet from Lil’ Buckaroos photography.
I had seen the signs for the past few weeks, about the pony ride and pictures happening, but assumed it was something that parents had to opt in to participate. Not needing pony pictures with my kidlet, I just ignored all the paperwork. But there it was, in my hand, 7 prints, of my son on the back of a pony, dressed in cowboy gear, and the instructions to pay $25 within a week, order prints online, or return the proofs to the office.
How could I return such adorably overpriced western posed pictures with my one and only? He looked so cute perched on Dakota the pony, tipping his hat, and staring moodily into the camera. I’m a sucker for photos, anyway, and so I ponied up (pun intended) the $25 to pay for the proofs. I won’t even go online to see the package options, because I might end up spending his entire college fund on pony pictures.
But it made me laugh, because it was the best marketing strategy ever. How many parents are going to return the already printed photos of their adorable children riding ponies? I’m guessing not many. The strategy worked, though if it had been something else besides pony pictures, I might have been legitamtely mad. Or if I had an aversion to ponies and felt like I should have been given the option to give permission for my son to ride atop those sometimes vicious little creatures.
I came home and showed Boof the pictures, and he agreed they were cute. Though his heartstrings are not tugged nearly as much as mine, though he loved the idea of giving one of them to his dad for Father’s Day, because Potamus is in love with his “Buppa” and they do manly cowboy things together, like tromp through yard with tools, and I think he’ll love the picture. And who wouldn’t, because my child is adorable, ammirite?
Having a toddler is much harder than having an infant, especially in the picture taking department. I take so many more photos that have a distinct blur from his movements. Though I’ve just now figured out that he will say “cheese” for photos and will result in a sorta smile on his end.
But we were out in the park the other night, to eat pizza and Doritos with friends, and to enjoy the Seattle sunshine. I managed to capture a few photos that really capture his personality. Like his fearlessness, as he launched himself off the platform and then hung there on the bars. I was far enough away to not be a helicopter parent, but was keeping a keen eye on him. I managed enough time to take this picture, mostly to teach him that sometimes being a daredevil means not getting rescued right away 🙂 He was no worse for wear, despite the side-eye I was getting from some lame brained parents who hover ridiculously around their offspring.
He’s a good eater, for everyone but me. Friend Mari brought raspberries, and he gobbled them up. I buy raspberries and he looks like I’m making him eat poop laced garbage.
There really are no words for this last one. His expression is just hilarious here. I’m not sure exactly what he’s trying to tell me…
Look at that face, it says it all! My boy is two and he’s clearly annoyed with mama’s antics. Though the mood swings go the other way, too, and we find ourselves giggling in bed at night before he finally nestles down to sleep. It’s only been two weeks, but I’m amazed at how smoothly weaning went. There are times I still find myself reaching to flop my boob out, but I haven’t, and it’s all just seemed so easy that I could pinch myself. This is why I kept my goal in mind over the summer, when I was having a rough patch, because ending easily for both of is was totally worth it!
I’m really enjoying the “terrible twos,” though tantrums aren’t very fun, it is neat to see how he’s asserting his independence and asking for things. Today on our walk he ran twenty five feet ahead of me and then turned to look where I was. Or how when we passed a dead end, he turned to go down that street and waved ‘bye bye’ to me and blew me a kiss before giggling and running back to me. He’s funny most of the time, and can be easily distracted from a tantrum when I let go of my expectations and do something silly, too.
I’ve really enjoyed Winter Break, but truthfully I am looking forward to the exhaustion of a normal schedule. Not having any predictability to speak of for the better part of two weeks has begun to wear on me. Sure I don’t like getting up at 6am knowing I HAVE to be out the door by 7 to get to work, but at least it’s consistent, ya know?
For the past year I have seen many blogs about how the pictures we post on social media show a skewed view of life. And while I have always fundamentally agreed that yes, rarely do people show pictures on Instagram where they add a filter over their bulging anger face veins in a true-to-this-moment selfie. But I’ve also said that those picture moments are JUST AS REAL as the moments right before or after. They show one part of the story.
My opinions fundamentally haven’t changed on that opinion, but I have had two experiences in the past week that have caused me to be frustrated with my own portrayal of my life and emotions on social media. Because I have posted pictures of cool things, or times when I am smiling for the camera but am seething on the inside because all of my introverted faculties are being bombarded by an overwhelm of stimuli and I want to punch somebody in the face. In real life, I am a terrible faker. People know how I’m feeling from about 100 yards away, and those who can’t quite figure out my emotions usually assume it’s bad and steer clear of me unless I’m obviously putting out happy-clappy vibes. But on social media…that’s where I am good at faking.
For example…this sweet moment:
The reason we’re at this super sweet park is because my parent’s pissed me off at YET ANOTHER Christmas get together. They told me to “watch my tone” when I was frustrated about the noise level and the fact that Potamus was melting down and we still had three hours to go until the party was over. So while I snapped this adorable picture, I was actually standing outside in the cold without a coat or a sweater, and was trying to calm myself down. Potamus hadn’t napped, was way over stimulated, and we clearly both needed a little fresh air to cool off. But this pic got slapped up to Instagram and Facebook and it looks so sweet, and truthfully the moment WAS sweet, but inside I was seething.
Then there’s this moment, where I’m snuggled up with my sister…who actually turns out to have had a 102.5 fever. We’re mugging for the camera, and all is going well with us, but I am completely overhwelmed by the noise and heat and stimulation happening in my aunt’s house at this point. I’m holding it together for the pciture, but can you see the way I’m gripping the table and my sister’s arm like please keep me sane.
And all those adorable pictures from MOHAI? Reason that nobody else was in them was because my in-laws were clearly in a pissy mood, and so I decided to do the tour by myself. I enjoyed myself, truly, but was also freaking annoyed at yet another family function that turned into a shit storm because there are too many opinionated people trying to run the show.
I know that my photos tell a truth. They might not tell the WHOLE truth, which is what’s going on in my head, versus what’s happening around me, versus what I want to be happening. But I still stand by them, even those these last few interactions I’ve taken have actually felt cruddier than others. I know I’ll look back and know that there were sweet moments where I have seen Potamus grow, but I hate that there’s a discrepancy between what I sometimes feel, and what I look like in a photo…though who wants to look like a bitter uncomfortable hag in every photo? Haha!
\\When we upgraded our cell phone, I picked my new one based on the camera feature. Silly? Maybe. But for me, someone who loves photography, it made sense. A 13 mp camera with the feature to shoot video and take stills at the same time? Love it. I’ve had it for 8 months and I’ve taken THOUSANDS of photos. Yes you read that right, thousands.
But the internal memory card cannot be removed and, at 32 GB, was getting dangerously close to being full after only 8 months of phone usage. I had over 18 GB of pictures on my phone. Yesterday was my day off, and so, I backed up all of my photos to an external hard drive AND our home desktop computer. Despite them being in two secure places my heart pounded as I pushed “select all” and “delete” on my phone. Gone are the pictures from Cannon Beach summer fun, and the video of him learning to walk, and the endless spaghetti face pictures from summer dinners.
I know it’s an anxiety thing, but having those pictures on my phone, in my hand, is something that makes me feel connected to the past. I love pictures because it helps me remember. I sometimes think that I might cease to exist, cease to remember things, if pictures did not exist. Of course that’s not really the case, but it was fun to look back through all those photos and remember those sweet little moments.
Parenting goes by so fast. In 8 months he’s started walking, and this week, talking, and I love having those little memories imprinted in digital files scattered around my house to go back and meditate on. To remember the sweet smell of his hair, and how his chubby little feet felt kicking me as he nursed endlessly. I think taking pictures helps me be more present now, though I can understand how it also helps me separate myself from the here and now moment, too.
At any rate, my phone is running faster after getting rid of 2500 photos, and it’s fun to think about the new ones that I will get to take, especially as we head into the Halloween and Christmas seasons!
The Halloween section of Value Village was calling my name. And Potamus wanted to try on all the wigs and hats. I couldn’t stop laughing when we put them on. So funny…and I remembered how much I love having Fridays off.