Not Always Smiles
The majority of what I do behind a camera involves kids. At the very least, it often involves childhood because it’s what surrounds me during 95% of my day. There are a million incredible photographers out there who do incredible work capturing smiling, happy, joyful kids and make us all feel a bit wistful to be in a kid and run barefoot in the backyard.
But we forget that childhood is hard. And it deserves to be captured, beyond the happy and giggles. There’s an everyday in childhood and it follows the same rhythm of life with ups and down (though maybe a bit of extra exuberance thrown in for good measure!) You might have run barefoot in the backyard, but sometimes it was because your mom kicked you out of the house to GO PLAY because she couldn’t take one more minute of the fighting. Or you’re running, breathless, because it feels good to run and run sometimes and get out all of the feelings you’re not allowed to express to adults, even though your feelings are just as valid. It’s everything out of your control and feelings stronger than you understand or know what to do with that. It’s so much struggle between fair and unfair and a completely skewed perspective as you struggle to gain an understanding of those around you and a world larger than yourself.
On this day, you just weren’t having it. It took promises and bribery and at some point I had to put the camera down and call it quits. It’s ok to not have a great day. To be coming from days on end of going and going and fighting with your brother and feeling grumpy and mosquito bites and your parents forcing you to go for a walk in the woods when all you wanted to do was relax. And you get there and all your mom does is bark at you to stand in a certain spot for a photo or bark at you to stay on the center of the path because the unbelievable amounts of poison ivy covering every bit of living matter is astounding and you should’ve probably turned around from the start. But you’re a kid and you still have fun. You squat down to pick up treasures – rocks and pine cones and sticks. You pull blades of grass and little flowers from their stems. Dig your fingers in the dirt and spell with a stick. Listen to the cicadas and correct your brother for the 500th times that it’s NOT crickets he hears, it’s CICADAS (and they’re loud.)
In her head, your mom can just hear you (much later in life) adding choice words onto the end of the sentences you spit from the tip of your tongue at your brother. She chuckles to herself a bit over it . She can hear you as a 25 year old young woman telling him what he should and shouldn’t be doing. And even then, he’ll go between two extremes in his response: He’ll scream at you between clenched teeth to LEAVE HIM ALONE or when he’s feeling particularly smug, he’ll sit back, a bit aloof, and know that it bothers you even more when he ignores your commands.
It’s not all smiles, childhood, and that’s absolutely fine.