"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Che: there was only one ice-block left so we hid in the garden and he savoured every. last. bite.
Poet: Perched on a step stool, this will always be her spot at the table.
A few months ago I was asked to write a piece about motherhood for papier mache magazine. The current issue features my story and I thought I'd share it here with you. No doubt you'll understand my sentiments.
There's a common saying amongst mothers, first coined by writer Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Indeed, our days of mothering babies and young children can be tiring and messy; a cycle of washing, settling, cleaning and playing. Sometimes they’re monotonous and seemingly endless. But then, without so much as a blink, the sleepless nights and mornings at the park are over, and we’re sending our children off to school, hesitantly cutting the metaphorical cord once again.
I regarded 2012 as The Year Before My First-born Went to School. We were holidaying in the country when the New Year rang in, living in an old school house with heavy doors, panelled windows and musical floorboards. On New Years Day, Che, my four-year-old, scraped his toe whilst running barefoot outside. He came into the house, perched himself on a chair, and asked for a band-aid. He was adamant that he was going to fix it all by himself so I stood back, stayed silent, and took a photo. It became the first of 52 portraits - one for every week in 2012.
I set about taking my children’s portraits as a way of documenting their fleeting childhood. I wanted tangible evidence of their growth and expansion; an honest account of their young, innocent lives. I took photos of Che sitting hesitantly on the side of the pool, hiding from the camera; his shadow an eerie replica, the twiddling of his toes - a family trait. Poet was all round and soft in her first photo and as the year progressed I watched her limbs grow longer, her face more defined, her independence evolve. There are photos of her inquisitive eyes, her cheeky demeanor, and her top-knot; an unportrait of sorts that I’d probably nominate as my favourite.
As 2012 came to a close I had 104 portraits - a story of Che and Poet’s year. Imbued in each image is my story too; a tale of motherhood with all its exhaustion, frustration, joy and palpable, immeasurable love. It’s a documentation of ordinary days that I wanted to remember because they were beautiful - an odd collection of singular moments that would have otherwise gone unnoticed amidst the general busyness of life. Even when the days were too long to enjoy I can see, in retrospect, that they were a blessing.
Beyond the story of this portrait collection lies a strange reality; I look through it and experience a profound sense of nostalgia for my children’s younger selves. I already miss them! I miss them with a longing that only a mother’s heart knows; it’s deep and raw and acts as a beautiful reminder: to stop, observe and document.
I’m still taking their photos - once a week, every week, in 2013.
I was so taken by these portraits (and the big sky) that it took me a while to realise that it's a park on a beach! Dream come true / all alight in the river - so very beautiful / it's all in the eyes and these siblings look so alike / three Js and three very different personalities / and finally, a portrait that candidly captures the deep, indescribable joy of family. Welcome, Milinh.