“I can feel it all starting to speed up. The workload. School stuff. Thoughts and feelings. Birthdays and Christmas. The approach to the end of the year always feels incredibly frantic, no matter how much I try and plan and organise and control. I wish I could freeze time, like this frozen leaf, just for a few seconds so I can get my head and my heart clear. Seeing as I haven’t mastered the art of time-freezing yet, instead I’m choosing to respond differently to the chaos, letting it flow instead of fighting against it, because it’s in the fighting that the suffering and struggling happens. Accepting it as it is, co-existing in harmony with it all, is something I’m doing my best to embrace this year – for the sake of my sanity and my long-suffering (and very wonderful) husband and daughters.”
I posted the photo and caption above on Instagram yesterday and they’ve been echoing in my head ever since.
I want to freeze time. Or at least slow it down a little.
It’s not just the upcoming season and the multiple lists (Christmas present ideas, Christmas presents bought, Christmas presents still to buy – I actually have a spreadsheet for this for goodness sake! – Christmas cards, Christmas food, blogs to write, work to do, birthday parties to plan, birthday present ideas, birthday presents still to buy, birthday presents bought, fun stuff to do over the holidays…) that have me feeling a bit frantic though.
It’s my babies growing up.
Sophie, my stepdaughter, turned fifteen last week. Fifteen! I’ve known her since just before she turned three years old – a cute little blonde toddler with big eyes and a cheeky grin. The first time I met her I was 21 years old and it was the night before she was going on holiday to Spain with her Dad, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and his parents. She came into the living room wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked, plonked herself down next to me and asked “Tea?”. I nodded solemnly and she busied herself setting up a tea party for two with her plastic teapot and cups. I fell in love with her from that moment, and fell even harder for her Dad when I saw how wonderful he was with her – she was his world (and still is).
Over the last thirteen years I’ve watched her grow from a toddler into a young woman. She’s been through a lot in her relatively short life and she has handled it all with grace and maturity. I introduced her to ‘Friends’, she introduced us to ‘The Big Bang Theory’. She is unendingly patient with her sisters and always has been, playing endless games of Mums and Dads and, now that they’re older, painting their nails and writing plays for them all to perform for us.
But that’s not all.
My eldest daughter, my Ella, the one who made me a mother, turns ten years old in a few weeks time. Double figures. I’ll have been a Mummy for a decade. I have no idea where that time has gone. I remember her being born like it was yesterday – it sounds like a cliché I know but all I have to do is close my eyes and I’m transported back into the delivery room with her on my chest, blinking up at me, feeling the most overwhelming and powerful mixture of emotions that I’d ever felt.
And then, less than a month later, my littlest one turns seven. My baby will be seven years old. How did this happen?! It feels like I’ve closed my eyes for a millisecond and missed it all in a flurry of work and school and appointments and Mondays and questioning and wondering and planning and life.
Except I haven’t missed it all. I’ve been there for every moment. The first gummy smile, the first determined crawl, the first taste of food and the screwed-up face that followed, the first wobbly steps, the first garbled “Mama”, the first grazed knee, the first day at nursery, the first day at school, the first sports day, the first nativity play, the first wobbly tooth, the first tummy bug, the first falling out with a best friend, the wonder of learning to read a word for the first time… I’ve been there for all of them and many, many more.
All those glorious moments of life that have happened in between the work and school and appointments and Mondays and questions and wonderings about whether I’m doing a good enough job at this motherhood thing. They’ve just happened.
We can’t control time, much as we’d like to. We can’t physically slow it down, or halt it.
But we CAN savour those fleeting moments within the craziness. We have the power to store them in our minds as memories. We are able to capture those moments on camera – freezing time in a way I guess – preserving them forever more for us to look back on and remember and feel again another day, month, year , decade down the line.
That’s my ‘Why’. That’s precisely the reason I take so many photos, document our days in detail and tell our story. So I can freeze time. So I can remember them (and us) at every stage. So I can look back and be instantly transported, time travelling through our lives to meaningful moments so I can study them and understand how they shaped us and feel them all over again.
Time feels like its been speeding up, but as long as I keep on doing what I’m doing, camera in hand, I can freeze it forever. I think I just needed to remind myself of that.