Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Passion or Addiction?

When I forced myself to go to bed at midnight last night, I felt like a kid who'd been put to bed immediately after opening Christmas presents. I was too amped up to sleep and dreamed all night about what I'd been doing before bed.

I read somewhere that dreaming of a favored activity might be a sign of addiction. There's some chance it's an addiction, but I prefer the term passion. I was editing photos last night.

I spent yesterday afternoon reading articles and watching videos. With no opportunity to take a photography class in the immediate future, my education is up to me. That's not so hard, thanks to the Internet. I set some goals, found concepts I wanted to learn more about, and did my research.

When my son went to swim practice, I told my daughter we'd be exploring (and confessed that I wanted to scope out our destination as a possible photo shoot location). We have a system in these situations: I don't make her pose, look at the camera, or smile, and she somewhat willingly stands where I tell her to stand. She's a pretty game guinea pig, I can practice, and we spend time together.

I took a huge number of photos. I was experimenting, so I did all kinds of things I wouldn't try on anyone but my kids. No one but a paid professional would have stood in front of my camera that long.

Most of the results were garbage. But a handful were magic.

It's the magic that keeps me up late at night.

As much as I love the results, it's the accomplishment that gives me a high.

I love photography. I want to be great at it, and I have so much to learn. Time spent trying something new is never wasted, even when I dislike the results. Merely tinkering is educational, and seeing tangible improvement from a few self-directed and self-taught hours is tremendously satisfying.

Every image and every edit is a revelation. Some are amazing, some are not. But all of it's exciting to this old dog who's eager to learn new tricks. The more time I devote to this passion, the more I learn and the better I become.

Going to bed at night means giving up that opportunity until sometime the next day. It's hard to stop. If that makes it an addiction, then I'm a happy photography addict.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What We Have

It's none of my business, but I always want to ask.

Every time I get to know a parent of a single child, I wonder how it came to be. Did they always intend to have only one? Or did other factors--health, fertility, timing--decide for them? It's not the result, but the decision-making that I find interesting.

I don't think of these families as oddities. I find them familiar. I am an only child, as is my husband and my father. I'm used to quiet houses and small dinner tables.

My mother is one of six children and wanted a big family. My father is an only child who wanted to live alone on a farm and raise dogs. As best as I can tell, I'm the compromise. That's my story.

I have two children, but I didn't necessarily foresee a family of four. I always told my husband I wanted one child with an option on two. We were a family of three for two years before trying for a second, and our family dynamic felt familiar and comfortable to me. It took a leap of faith to disrupt it by calling that option for baby number two.

It was the right decision for us, but it wasn't one we made lightly. I can't imagine having done otherwise, because we wouldn't be us without our daughter. But what about those families that considered the same factors and decided, "No, thanks. We're good?"

I'm interested to understand how others made this deeply personal decision. What factors did they consider? What about their own upbringing influenced the decision? Did they once desire more but fate intervened?

None of my business. Any of it. Yet I'm curious.

*     *     *

I think I'm fascinated because, nearly eight years into being a mother-of-two, I still find much about siblings unfathomable. I don't understand how anyone can want to touch (or be touched by) another person as much as my children do. I don't understand why they constantly are drawn to each other, even when they are driving each other crazy. I don't understand their desire to provoke each other or the intensity of their rage.

It's all unfamiliar territory to this (happily) only child. I don't understand the sibling relationship, so I remain intrigued by only-child families like the one I grew up in.

*     *     *

I still don't understand the "why," but I get the "what." Siblings have a shared formative experience. They have a live-in playmate and possible confidante. They care for each other differently than friends do. On the good days, I watch my children together and see only that they are there for each other.

Saturday was one of the good days. The kids had their first swim meet of the season. My son is now a third-year veteran, but it was my daughter's first meet and she was nervous. She stood behind the starting blocks waiting for her event to be called as her big brother finished his race. Without drying off, he went up to her, wished her good luck, and then stood with her until her race started.

It was the "standing there" that mattered. I know she appreciated the good luck wishes, but my daughter was visibly comforted by the fact that her brother stood with her.

That's what I lacked as an only child--I never had someone to stand with me the way my kids do. They may bicker and provoke and yell, but they stand with each other when they need it.

No family structure is the right one, but that is what's right about the one that we have.