I never have such humbling experiences as listening to my 6 year old daughter. As a parent, you may be guilty of doing exactly as I often do, which is talking at your children. Out of my mouth comes a barrage of instruction, teaching, chiding, coaxing, ordering. I come from a place of "I know better because I'm the adult". And of course when I was an older child I remembered how I hated that my parents never really listened, and yet I still find myself falling into that pattern. I realize now my parents knew much more than I did. But is that really true?
Last summer, my daughter declared that she wanted to save money to go to Disneyworld. Now, we don't have cable and she doesn't watch commercials, and only has an inkling of this fantastical place. Yet, she made up her mind. When I asked how she planned to make money for the trip, she told me she was going to have a rock sale (our driveway is made of river rocks). So what did I say to that? "Oh darling, no one is going to buy rocks. People don't just need rocks and if they really wanted one, they'd just pick one up off the road." I'm the parent, right? I didn't think it would end well, so it was my duty to help her understand that people just don't buy rocks.
But I didn't stand in her way (thankfully!). Her cousin came over, and we all helped setup. And she sat, at the end of the driveway, and waited; a collection of carefully selected rocks that she thought would be the prettiest to sell.
As she sat outside on that beautiful day, my husband and I joined her, sipping our coffees. As a car drove by, she stood up and waved. It drove by. And then stopped. And then backed up. A woman was in the car, with 2 pre-teen boys. When she rolled down her window, we explained what we were doing.
She dug up all the change in her tray, and handed it over to my daughter, in exchange for a hand-picked selection of 5 rocks. The coins totalled about $1.60. Bless this woman's heart, she made my little girl's day. The very thing I had poo-poo'ed, saying nobody would buy rocks.
I tell this story all the time since then, most recently the other day. Sometimes what we think parenting is, is really just limitations we've grown to accept around us. This was a fine example and I will admit that I was humbled that day. I wasn't a parent, I was a creative barrier.
My 6 year old has a lot to say. And I've started to instruct, teach, chide, coax and order less, and listen more. She has insights that haven't been clouded by reality of life. She is pure of heart and doesn't feel limitations. And I've come to look forward to listening to her when she begins to speak profoundly about certain things (and it's such an endearing thing, because she is so serious!). And it gives me a new channel for creativity.
I talk about how photography is about bringing out and capturing our authentic selves. When I see that real light shining (and not the fake smiles people typically start photo shoots with), it brings up a feeling inside that I can't explain.
She is my muse because her authenticity is unabashed and present in everything she does. She brings me out of my head to be in the moment. If I take even an ounce of this into a photo shoot, magic happens. Because if I'm primed to see someone's inner self and beauty, to listen to them, then they will feel more comfortable and give me a glimpse of their insides. And it's always beautiful.
She also doesn't place limitations on her own creativity and that forces me to do the same. I observe how she will just feel life, where I may overthink it.
I know there are times where I must be her parent. But I also think I must also be her student, and allow myself to learn from her. Here are a few more pics from that day. If you can relate, let me know in comments!