Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


Photographing Precious Toddler Moments


I am not laughing at you. OK, maybe I am.

But it’s funny. One day I think you will find it funny, too.

Sure, most moms and dads take photographs of their children at their happiest — big, toothy grins illuminated by the summer sun or leaning over to smell fresh spring flowers  — but I want to remember it all. 

I want to capture you, this tiny creature whose moods can switch in mere seconds, like an errant autumn leaf getting snapped up in a sudden gust of wind before gently fluttering to the ground or skipping just slightly above it, as though dancing to a happy song.

This is you, my darling boy, in all your grit and glory, an adorable face transforming from beaming apple cheeks and the most delightful laugh I’ve ever heard to a crinkly, angry mess, your smattering of smiling dimples receding from sight.

As hard as you giggle, you can scream.

As richly as you laugh, you can cry.

As proud as you feel when you’ve mastered a skill, you're just as easily overtaken by frustration when you haven’t.

And you can transport me — someone who loves you with such intensity it seems impossible that my heart hasn’t burst — from feeling on top of the world to the brink of despair in the time it takes to grab a quick snapshot.

So I try to find the humour in the darker moments, when the stormy toddler tantrums hit. 

OK, yes, I was giggling when I took this photograph of you having a meltdown while getting a haircut, sitting in a rocket ship chair with a huge bin of toys beside you. You acted like you were being set on fire, or that the rocket ship was lined with chicken wire. Oh the trauma. The haircut took about six minutes; a very long six minutes.

It was a Saturday morning, and if anyone in the neighbourhood had plans for a lazy sleep in, you had something else in mind.

Yes, I understand that a stranger coming at you with scissors probably doesn’t seem like a good idea. Under any other circumstance, I’d agree that your instinct of releasing glass-shattering screams was justified.

Who could blame you?

It’s hard to explain why a person wielding a sharp object can sometimes be a good thing (especially after the crazy number of times dad and I have said ‘no, that’s sharp. It’s dangerous. It’s not for you,’ using our stern parent voices).

Life is confusing.

And it’s bloody hilarious.

This picture of you still brings me to tears; that’s how hard it makes me laugh.

So thank-you.

Even in the most trying moments, I see you: a beautiful, unpredictable and complicated evolution happening before my eyes.

One day, my sweet boy, we will laugh at this together (and if not, I do apologize in advance).