Over the summer my family boarded a ship, DC’s own Odyssey to be exact, for a belated celebration of Pop Pop’s birthday. We gathered at the bow for a family photo op and while we did get a couple of the obligatory “line everyone up like milk bottles” poses courtesy of a fellow tourist, the shots I appreciated the most revealed a little something about the small groupings in front of the lens. Pics about ships and relationships,if you will. I started to wonder why I’m not doing more sessions like this professionally (adorable as my own family might be) but this looks like a good place to start.
Daddy is the clear favorite at this age.
Silliness, at age 5, is fairly requisite in all of our son’s relationships. He seem to be in the stage developmental psychologists refer to as “tongue outward while camera aware.” Nana has had no trouble embracing this, she’s been sticking her tongue out at the camera for years. Seriously. She eats is up.
Pop Pop is all about the playful pinch. Whether he is threatening to eat a foot or transforming his hand into “Gus the Gator” (Gus has been nibbling at Fiver pretty much since birth), Pop Pop is a joker and a poker.
Slightly more difficult to decipher is his relationship with his slightly older (but significantly taller) cousin, Jordan. When she is around he doesn’t show her much tenderness but in her absence he talks about her often and tells me he misses her. When I look closely at these pictures, I begin to understand… In his world, being big is where its at: it represents independence, authority and autonomy. He wants nothing more than to be a big boy. But with Jordan he is undeniably second in birth order, smaller, and from his world view: subjugated. He hates doing what she says, even when its something he actually wants to do (like stick a tongue out at the camera). He’s trying to figure out how to be big without being bigger and it can be awkward. Through my eyes they are finally the same age but that’s because I can remember holding my newborn lump of clay in one arm while grabbing the band of her diaper just in the nick of time and holding it firm, her legs and arms still vigorously moving towards the open front door/electrical socket/dog bowl and her mind trying to figure out why the items of danger/interest were not getting closer. We have no idea which of the two will be taller when they are in their 20’s and this age difference doesn’t matter in the least but hopefully he will have it worked out by then.
Learning what I did, I decided to pull a few other recent photos from family get togethers to see what I could see.
While Charlie is a younger cousin (and Fiver likes to remind him of that) he is the one our son sees as his buddy and peer. It might be because Charlie is also a boy, it might be because they spend a lot of time together, it might be because their parents are always laughing and joking and pal-ing around themselves. It may be any or all of those things but you can see collaboration between them. (The color car shot is my all time fav of their personalities).
With cousin Reyna, Fiver gets to be the clear elder. She adores him because he’s the big kid and he is very comfortable with her adoration. When he wanted to be Batman for his superhero birthday party, she naturally wanted to be Robin. She is a sidekick.
Dee Dee is the grandma I have the fewest images to pull from since she really likes to hide from the camera. It reminds me that I need to try a little harder because she is the the one who tickles the most and lets him make the very biggest mess. I did grab this one though, well these two… At Madison’s superhero party she was the only one who made herself into her very own superhero… Super Dee Dee…. Who super power is growing plants (and is therefore appropriately captured in our small garden). She’s dedicated to all things creative and instilling that in him too.
Grandpa is a hugger, that’s how he clowns.
And my mother can’t take a photo with either of these kids without her immense love and gratitude rising to the surface and welling her eyes. She is the one who sang to them and rocked them through nights when their new mothers couldn’t take the cholic anymore and went to bed. In the morning we would find her on the couch fast asleep with a content and peaceful baby cradled in her arms. As a result of both those nights and many very engaging, playful days they know her in an organic, almost cellular way. They are ours but they are also hers and they know it.
But back to the boat, this is my favorite. While you can’t see my face in this pic you can see who I am right now. I am safety when he is in over his head, I am shelter when the world gets a little bigger than the big boy. I relish this picture and admit that I worry about who I will be to him once he grows taller than I am and the world becomes his oyster with little to fear. We’ll just have to keep on taking pictures and figure it out as we go along.
Are there grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or other “ships” we should explore? Should we get the family together one afternoon around a special day or activity and see what we can’t see? The leaves are changing and fall beckons with farms, fairs, apples, pumpkins and other adventures best suited for crisp air. I’ve had a couple of gigs with littles and their grandparents and I’ve loved these very special sessions so let’s make more and share them here!
And thanks for reading, this was a LONG one.