I get fewer photos of Ethan these days. He's more aware of me trying to take candids and either hams it up or darts out of lens before I can snap one. More often than not, he sees me try to take a photo and asks that I take a picture of what he's doing or making instead.
Today I took multiple photos of him playing with Big Bunny and his knight's castle. Big Bunny was laying eggs on the tower. (Listen, I have tried repeatedly to explain that rabbits don't lay eggs, but he refuses to accept the fact.) Few of the photos came out, and even those that did seemed somehow off to me.
It was a gray day, so the lighting wasn't great. The camera on my phone isn't the best in the market. Still, I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.
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Ethan still likes to snuggle, but now usually only under certain circumstances: when he's tired, when he's not feeling well, when he's cold, or first thing in the morning. Though the tactile pleasures of a child are wearing off—no more warm baby smell of him, no more constant cuddles—they are being replaced with vocabulary, imagination, independence. These are the things I write about most when it comes to Ethan: his courageous attempts at new words and phrases, his precocity, his creativity.
I think we did right by waiting so long to have another child. I got to enjoy every stage of Ethan's baby- and toddlerhood, and now that he needs me less every day, I have Oliver's baby scent and warmth and burgeoning personality to enjoy, with the added bonus of guiding Ethan into a new stage of learning and life.
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After taking dozens of photos of Ethan today, I finally figured out what was off: me. Sure, many of them were blurred by the motion of his busy daily life, sure the lighting wasn't always great, sure the camera isn't the best. But none of that explained what I was seeing in the slideshow of snapshots.
When I look at Ethan, I see the full measure of him. Those are the same eyes that winked blearily at me in the hospital on our first night sharing the world. Those are the same cheeks that rested on my shoulders for comfort and sleep. Those teeth—one of which is now wobbly (!)—are the ones I nursed him through cutting, painfully and droolfully. No camera could capture all that I see when I see Ethan.
The photos I took today show a lovely young boy, coarsening hair and slimming face, elongating limbs and expanding mind. He is Ethan, flourishing.