Parenthood is always a bit of a balance between utter chaos and quiet profundity. Sometimes both at once.
If we let him, Jason would put his entire room into his bed before going to sleep--he'd fall asleep on top of a giant pile of books and toys, which he would then proceed to kick onto the floor over the course of the night. It's looking like Eva will be the same way.
Lifting your daughter over your head and listening to the sound of her laughter, then ignoring the fact that your arms are tired when your son asks for a turn, because it's fair, and anyway it's worth it to hear him laugh, too.
Sending your son to "time out" because he threw a ball at your face, even though you had just told him not to; listening to him scream about not wanting to, but not giving in; ending the whole thing with an explanation and a hug; and knowing that, even though he'll do it again, he means it when he says he won't.
Getting choked up at the card your son "wrote" for you, even though in it he says that you're 12 years older than you are and makes a big deal about how much you like to eat beans.
Taking a moment to marvel at how tiny and adorable your daughter's feet are--even though they are so much bigger than they were just a few months ago--then having your reverie interrupted by noticing that her toenails are getting long and wondering whether to go get the clippers or just bite them.
Ultimately, a difficult thing to summarize or quantify, and maybe the most important thing you've ever done.
Just Keep Swimming
Juliette asked me tonight how I was feeling. Honestly, I'm starting to feel like I'm floating again. I've reached a plateau with my photography where I'm not advancing commercially or artistically. My portrait bookings are sporadic, and while my clients have universally been happy with the photographs I make with them, I don't feel like I'm making much progress, if any, toward a self-sustaining life in photography. Nor do I have the time to dedicate toward building that business.
On the other hand, while I'm proud of how far I've come artistically with my personal work, I have very few outlets for that work and essentially no useful criticism. I've gotten a few photos into some curated groups on Flickr, but even though that was and is exciting, there's nothing there for me to build on, and no real feedback as to what's working and what's not, whether my rejects have shown potential or are just crap. The few critiques I've solicited have been generally positive--some overwhelmingly so--but while that's a nice ego boost it does nothing to help me grow as an artist.
And so, I feel adrift, directionless. I don't have the time or resources to pursue further training, and I don't have much in the way of an artistic community to bounce ideas off of and to give me feedback and criticism. I'm just continuing to do what I've been doing, but it feels more like I'm treading water than making any kind of forward progress.
I'm not really sure where to go from here, except that I know I don't want to give up. I know that when I look at pictures like the one above, it makes me happy--happy because of the moment in the picture and happy because I was able to make that image. That ought to be enough, but for whatever reason, it's not. So I suppose until I figure things out, there's nothing to do except take Dory's advice: just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.
"OK, which toy do you want, Jason."
"Ummmmm, I want the girl ducky."
"Yeah, that one."
"You know, you used to call this one the Jason ducky."
"That's not a Jason, that's a girl."
"Why do you think it's a girl?"
"Because it's a girl ducky."
"What makes it look like a girl?"
"See that? That's the make-up."
"You mean the little eyelashes? OK."
"Yeah, those eyelashes are called make-up. My eyelashes don't have that."
"I guess not."
"You know what mine are called? Mine are called merner."
"Merner? That's not a word, Jason."
"Sounds like a word to me."
Water In The Eyes
I imagine that a lot of people, when they look at these photos (I flatter myself that a lot of people look at them), think that I'm telling my kids' stories. The thing is, even as young as they are, there's too much about their internal life that is hidden for me to ever be able to tell their stories.
No, the only story I can really tell is my own. My own narrative for my life intersects theirs, maybe it runs alongside for a while, but they're not the same. Some day they may look back at these pictures (I hope they do) and see something they recognize, but what it means to them will be different from what it means to me. If I'm a good enough photographer, though, maybe seeing themselves the way I saw them will help them see me the way I see myself. I suppose, ultimately, that's the reason behind everything I do.