It’s sometimes hard to know how to talk about parenthood. You could easily focus on the negative and detail all of the frustrations and struggles of daily life with little ones. You could also take a positive spin and delight in the wonder of the incredible things children do and say and the intimate rhythm of sharing space with the littlest of people. SouleMama has a wonderful reflection on her blog on why she has chosen this kind of approach.
Of course, these are not the only approaches available and many writers mix in varying parts humor, grief, spirituality, and many other ingredients to concoct their personal approach.
Frankly, I haven’t been in this space long and often enough to find my own rhythm, but I’d say that my approach is somewhere in the middle. My explanation of my blog name (written when Xavier was just a bit older that Ada is now) reflects my (very real) feelings about parenthood when I’m feeling particularly sentimental. But, of course, I realize it is not all sunshine and rainbows. On a minute-to-minute basis, I have my blow up moments. And I also have a sense of humor. I delight in the reflections of humorists like Scary Mommy (Jill Smokler) and projects like “Reasons My Son is Crying.” But I’ve recently realized that I seem to have an unusual affinity for situations most writers would need to use humor or a huge dose of sentimentality to tackle. I have a funny appreciation for photos of pouting and angry children and children making trouble, not just as sources of great humor (although they are good for that, too), but as great examples of raw emotion. Some of my favorite photos of my own children (and myself as a child) are when they are throwing a fit or pouting quietly. There is just something so raw, so real, about their emotions. They wear them on their sleeve in such an honest way that so many of us couldn’t approach if we tried. And, importantly, and perhaps this is part of the appeal for me, they let things go so much more quickly and easily than adults. Children are downright terrible at holding grudges. They feel the deepest depths and highest heights of their emotions. And then they let them go.
I try to remember this approach when I find my kids doing things that are so ridiculously defiant, disastrous, dangerous, and chaotic I could absolutely lose my mind (and often do). As parents, we’d do well to let things go as easily as our kids but, c’mon, it’s just so hard. In time, though, we find the humor, and sometimes in those rare lucky occasions, we find it in the moment. And sometimes, more than enjoying the humor of it, we realize that we are witnessing raw emotion, a real little person dealing with a real experience of feeling something deeply without the worries or complications of grudges, inhibition, or self-consciousness. And there is joy in that as well.
Sometimes, in these moments, I remember how a friend described her parents’ approach to similar situations: photograph first, punish later. This is how, she explains, they captured the very moment they realized their children had dug up the rose bushes in their yard. That’s got to be a great shot, no? And one everyone can enjoy, now that the moment has passed and the little trouble makers in the photo are adults themselves.
In this spirit, I am initiating a sometime series called “Monday Mahem.” I’ll post a moment (or moments) I captured during the week of my children, well, making mayhem as only they can. Sometimes I’ll include a reflection; sometimes I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. They are funny photos. But, particularly as me and my children grow together, they are also moments of pure joy, pure anger, pure frustration that passed as quickly as they came but that I was lucky enough to capture so that we could all find the joy in them later.
I hope you enjoy this week’s selections. I’ll let them speak for themselves except to say that yes, that is Ada’s diaper in her hand, and yes, it is the very one that is supposed to be on her bottom. (And no, this was not the only time on that particular day that she removed said diaper and flailed it around triumphantly.)