Point of view: Lauren Gayeski

This week, Philadelphia and South Jersey documentary family photographer Lauren Gayeski is sharing her point of view, along with her photographs:
I feel the ticking of the clock in my ear.  Time passing ever so quickly and kids growing every day, evidenced by the sharpie lines on our kitchen wall climbing higher and higher and the grocery bill that goes along to feed those ravenous growing bodies…
Before I became a mother, I had a picture in my head of what parenthood would look like and none of it ever involved teenagers.  When I held my first son for the first time, I didn’t imagine buying him deodorant or braces.  When we moved our two boys into a room together to make room for their younger brother, I couldn’t picture the day on the beach where my oldest son quietly asked if he could move into his own room.  I knew he was ready, but it still kind of broke my heart.  And now, here we are, with boxes of toys being packed away or lovingly passed on, as they grow beyond them and into a new, exciting, and desperately challenging phase: adolescence.
As a mother, this is the place I’ve been dreading for 13 years.  But as a photographer, I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than the awkward reality that comes with the struggle for independence and identity in a sea full of other awkward people who have no idea how to navigate these uncharted waters.  Photography has allowed me to honestly love this place in motherhood that I once dreaded.  I don’t like the idea of them growing up and away from our family of five, but isn’t that the goal of parenthood, in the end?
This season is so much like the changing tide, ebbing and flowing, pushing and pulling, “I need you” and also “leave me alone”.  In this moment, I get a front row seat to the step by step metamorphosis of my children becoming who they were born to be, with ideas and opinions (and fashion choices) that are radically different from my own.  And in this place, there are a lot of lessons for me, like when to prod for answers to instinctive suspicions and when to keep my nose out of their business.  And even harder, when I have to muster all of my self-control to not go full stop mama bear on anyone who hurts my beloved children, because shielding them from hurt is not preparing them for the real world.  As much as I just want to fix everything for them in this scary, broken world, I can only help them figure it out for themselves.
Photography has allowed me to document my perspective of who they are at this moment, and as they get deeper into the physical and emotional changes of adolescence and (gasp!) puberty, the self-doubt and desperation to fly under the radar, unseen, is alarming.  Why would you hide when who you are is so beautiful?  I can see it.  And so I photograph them for the beauty of being just as they are, today, in all of their awkward glory.  One day, I’ll hand the three of them stacks of photographs of the life they’ve built with joy, struggle, work, and a whole lot of prayer, and they will understand that the path of growing up may have been tangled, but I was there.
And I loved them for who they were (even when they were assholes).

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