Where’s the love, Ri?

Every once in a while I find myself perusing the BabyCenter.com e-mails delivered to my inbox. While Ri has long since advanced beyond the weekly milestone reports, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that we’re on the right track in this race to create superior offspring. I don’t know who I’m competing against, and I really don’t care. I learned a long time ago that comparisons with friends is a huge no-no of the shake your head emphatically and cluck your tongue in reply magnitude. Yep, I still catch myself thinking “My child did that eons ago, what took ya’ll so long.” Then I admonish my silent brag and remember that each one of my “feathers” has sped through or lagged behind on some growth (and maturity) marker along the way.

The most recent article was one that teased my maternal heartstrings: “7 signs that your toddler loves you.” I mean, it’s the week of Valentine’s Day when love is all anyone is talking about. My youngest isn’t talking much yet – except of course to chant “Da-da-da” or “aye-t” (eat). She’s long forgotten “Ma,” which she used to say with ease. And she’s pretty expressive non-verbally, so she’s not really trying to use her words, whatever ones she might possess.

So I couldn’t resist peeking at this little information gem. Does Ri love me, her mama? Can a toddler really love? Does she even have a choice? [Feel free to gasp or insert “dundundun!!!!” sounds for emphasis on that last one.]

Given opportunity, Ri makes her preferred person of the moment known. One minute it is big brother, the next, it’s youngest brother (or his snack). Playtime means seeking the one with the best energy – maybe Chi, maybe one of the littles. If she’s hungry, no one satisfies quite like mom, with the built in milk jugs. And if she’s sleepy? Well, it depends on her mood – Dad, Rico, Mom, anyone who’ll cuddle and lay still.

Ri blue-babySo where is the love? The article reports the proof is in the display.

7 signs that your toddler loves you:
1. She mirrors your face.
2. She takes her opinions (and reactionary cues) from you.
3. She copies your behavior.
4. She engages with you, gives you attention.
5. She uses you as home base.
6. She turns to you for rescue.
7. She seeks comfort from you.

The verdict? Yep, she loves me. No need to pluck petals from a flower on that one. Heck, seems like she sort of loves all of us… even strangers. Miss Social Sass is forever engaging audiences and drawing in the responses.

Not here, there

Mama goofed big time. I watched as the silver Caddie sped away from the curb. It was barely 4:30 in the morning and the sun had yet to break out above the horizon. I juggled my purse, our combined suitcase, and my loaded turquoise camera bag – careful not to tip the latter, thus spilling the contents dangerously to the concrete floor. (How foolish to buy this “fashionable” case with the open flap that had no consideration for secure closure!) Ri sat wriggling in her stroller, fighting against the seat belt that confined her to it.

The check-in was nearly empty, with the only two attendants assisting in bag checks. A row of waiting kiosks beckoned, their screens showing “push start to begin.” I navigated the winding path leading to the vacant machines and tapped the blinking button. With so few people in the building, there was plenty of time, still, to get through security and board my 5:45 am flight. It asked for my name, which I gave it. It returned with something like “ticket not found. Choose another entry option?” Huffing, I fumbled for my ticket confirmation paperwork and entered in the number recorded there. This time the machine replied, “Error. See attendant.”

The two attendants were still busy, processing seemingly endless papers as they scanned bar codes and printed off receipts and other documents. I happened to notice another woman lingering near the ropes dividing priority check-in from the general lines. “Excuse me,” I began, not clear whether she was a waiting passenger or an airline agent. She turned toward me, aggravation obvious in her twisted, tight lipped grimace. I saw, then, her name tag and airline affiliation. “Umm… the machine says I should see attendant. I’m supposed to have a 5:45 flight to Houston.”

She reached out and snatched my paperwork, scanned the flight information and shoved it back at me. “You’re supposed to be at DCA. That’s Reagan National. There’s your problem,” she said, as she turned on her heels and walked quickly away.

Get in there

I admit it: I am rarely in a photo with my children.
Girls, No. 3 13
It’s not because I shy away from the camera. Point one toward me, and I am likely to burst into an over-the-top scrunch-nosed, big open-mouthed smile. It’s not pretty, either. Then, all my chins – which seem to be increasing with my age – are showing. My freckles and scars are plain to see. My flock of crows etch the corners of my eyes. Additional curves adorn my waist where none should be. A flat and wide backside does injustice to jeans meant for more substance.

And yet I yearn to be caught.

To be preserved. To leave a visual impression – – something more than a fading memory of presence.

I’m not the only photographer here. I’m not the only one to record our legacy.

What about me?
Girls, No. 3 13 (too)

I need to be part of the portrait – included, even if rarely, in the collection being built for my family. And so, I tote my tripod. I carry my frequently fickle remote control. I beg, plead, bribe my kids into staging photo shoots. And sometimes? They actually humor me.
Mom & Ri, No.3 13

Even more special? When Chi – or Rico, when he’s home for the weekend – volunteer to hold the camera and snap a few quick pictures. Unposed. Real. Me, enjoying the moments with my children. Enjoying the treasure trove of experiences that motherhood offers.


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I must insist more often. Perhaps equip them with a camera, too. Become a fixture in the image. Exist within the frame of snap shots taken to hold onto moments.
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Naked bums: birthday suit babes

I’m in a photo forum online. It’s closed to general public. It’s a non-competive, safe place for sharing pictures, getting feedback,  and gathering ideas.

Yesterday,  a few photogs complained about “reported” photos of babies with exposed behinds: you know, diaper off, butt to camera.  And when other photographers agreed that some shots just aren’t for the general public, a tirade of “why not?” and “you’re sick to think that [these photos are inappropriate]” ensued. I suppose it was the art is subjective vs. objectifying photo subjects debate rehashed.  Except we’re talking babies who don’t dress themselves.

One person posted a shot to further the debate of three boys appearing to be urinating outside.  Two have their pants and underwear dropped and are exposing buttocks.  The kids, she said, were under seven. Older than babies, but kids who still need assistance selecting and putting on clothes.  Two comments confirming what I suspect she already knew (this was not art, was not a portrait,  was not at all appropriate to preserve on “film” and share), and she “respectfully” removed herself from the forum. Her share was not pornographic, certainly,  but the picture is hardly suitable for mass dissemination online.  She, apparently,  didn’t see anything wrong with the photo – might even have been proud of it. 
censored
I admire the creativity of many photographers. I see beautifully posed images of newborns draped only in sheer wraps or laying on fluffed blankets. And I’ve seen many an exposed bum. But I am not a fan of these increasingly prevalent type of ‘portraits’ featuring standing naked tots with their entire backsides presented to camera.  Hypocrisy,  maybe, because I appreciate the images I’ve seen of the seated bare child, provided the little has his back to camera and no gender revealing parts are visible.  Wait… that sounds odd. Except, many children like to be unhindered by constricting clothes. Capturing that in a photo, unposed and non-objectified can be beautiful. Not all nudity is pornographic. Not all photos need to be displayed.

As parents,  hubs and I object to presenting our littles to the world without appropriate modesty. Even Cupid and the Renaissance painted angels have some modesty and cover their personals. I’m reminded constantly when shooting to keep our girls’ bodies -especially chests – covered. I’m cautious about snapshots when any of the kids are in night clothes or underwear – even when taking lifestyle photos for the scrapbook. As adults, we have to protect our childrens’ innocence.

I don’t think this debate on the forum will resolve. Tempers have flared. It’s personal. It’s ugly. Even a photo with a bum covered in a ‘censored’ sticker offended some anonymous viewer. The lesson seems to be that a standing babe in his birthday suit might be fine for the family album, but it shouldn’t be an internet post. 

Winding around

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I should never complain. I’ve been blessed with three beautiful babies of my own and gifted two more through marriage. Their early morning rousing, replete with whispers heard quite clearly in the once quite dawn, their giggles and the uncontrolled pangs of laughter wake me from my sleep. The youngest, still a nursling,  babbles incessantly lately – even when resting she’s chattering.

But as the second full month of my vacation from formal teaching begins, I’m feeling worn down.  My youngest son, just shy of five, rattles off questions like a quiz show host.   Chi wondered at my ability to answer even the most random of interrogation.  Truthfully, I’m getting pretty good at guessing.  Heaven help my kids if ever they’re called upon to answer some trivia and all they’ve recalled is my reply!

They’re feeling quite cooped up despite daily outings to parks, the libraries, and scenic spots I’ve surveyed for photographic potential. If indoors – whether a store or home – the bickering begins without fail. Tired of siblings, they crave time alone or with the few neighborhood friends they’ve made. Squabbles break out frequently amongst the four.

My nerves are wound up tightly. It’s not easy and relief is short. I wonder if they’ll remember their summer fondly. Will they treasure the moments of peace, of adventure? Will we all be grateful for the school year or miss the freedom of our break? I must unwind, pause to relish in these brief childhoods before independence.

Breathe.

Someday you may hate me

I followed a link on Facebook today that touted having found ten of the most “deranged cupcake” outfits available.  Though her biting humor might’ve been more for impact than for disdain,  it gives me pause.

abuse the frog w
Several of her choices looked quite similar to tutus in our growing collection of photo props and fantasy-fashion wear.  And a few others were of outfits I’d love to have made for you two, but couldn’t possibly afford (or justify the expense of).  These are beautiful gowns in lavish fabrics, drapes of exquisite antique laces in vintage styling, and feather or flower adorned frocks that grace the pages of fashion magazines.  Child couture, I’d say each qualifies to be categorized amongst.

I’m apologizing to you now, because someday you may hate me for dolling you up in finery I could only dream of borrowing.  You may be appalled at the shockingly cute {gasp} photographs of you appearing as though walking through a fairytale.  You may even find distaste in the absurdly beautiful over-the-top coordinates you’ve been asked to pose in.  You may tire of the compliments these pretty things attract for you naturally beautiful girls. For it all, I’m sorry.

You see, I’m proud to be able to lavish you with the occasional impractical wardrobing.  I love seeing you sparkle like the diamonds – the precious and coveted gems – you are.  No, these silly things won’t make you any better than anyone else. They won’t boost you into greatness, either;  I’m certain that your wit and wisdom will place you into your ultimate success. 

But I worry you may draw the negative attention of critical onlookers who chastise parents like me.  I’m no pageant mom – at least not like the ones I see on television.   And I’m hardly a model mommy like some of the vicious “momagers” I’ve had the displeasure of encountering.  But I am a fierce advocate of fostering your interests and talents. It exposes you (just like this blog I maintain about our life together). People judge. They talk. They mock, ridicule and attack. 

You may hate me someday for letting you balance hard work and fun, for allowing you to reach beyond this suburb we live in.  You may… but maybe not.

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