"Tween." The term given to that beautifully awkward stage between the ages of 10 and 12. Not a little kid anymore. No, far from it. But not a teenager yet. We have a few more years before that stage hits my household, but I certainly remember it. Completely unsure of myself, but still trying to have cute hair and get the popular boys to dance with me at my first fifth-grade dance. It's right before all the hormones attack and slap you around for a while. Right when you SEE the hormone kids in the grades in front of you getting older, LOOKING older, doing older kid things - and wanting to be there, but having it feel a galaxy away.
It can be a weird time for parents. I imagine it can feel like your last shot to really set your ideas in their heads. Like the last time their pre-pubescent brains might have room for what you want to say to them. What you want them to know as they hit the teenage years, which can be lived so much more publicly now.
What do you want them to know? That they're BEAUTIFUL beyond reason? Even if they get made fun of every day for the next few years? That they are WORTHY of the best life has to offer? To not tie their self-worth up in another person? In a group of people? To think for themselves, stand up for what they believe in. That life can get lonely and scary, but that their little world is not all their is - far from it. That they are SMART, CARING, HILARIOUS, STRONG. I imagine you want to shove all those things in their growing brains and hope that, as dark skies of teenagerdom roll in on occasion (or often), that your nugget that you planted has turned into a glowing diamond and speaks to them like a beacon.
I want to tell my daughters these things NOW, so I can only image I will want to make sure it's in their bones as time sends them to their teen years.
Even now I find myself wanting to hug the tweens in Claire's! Or at the local sporting goods store! Or the girls and boys who were brave enough to not only take a hip-hop class, but perform in front of hundreds! I want to say, "YOU are BRAVE! YOU are BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE ENOUGH."
But they'd think I was a whack job and probably start screaming, so I refrain.
But what I CAN do, as a photographer, as a capturer of time, of emotions of confidence and beauty...I can photograph these 10-12 year olds - these beautiful, growing people - and give them visual reminders of who they are at the core. What mom wouldn't want to give that?
Once or twice a year I let my now five-year-old create her own photo shoot. Location, fashion, makeup, whatever she wants. And I take her favorite photos from the shoot and I hang them in her room. And I turn the rest into an album. And she looks at them SO OFTEN. She looks at them and KNOWS she's beautiful and wonderful and a good person.