525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes—how do you measure, measure a year?
I measured it in one picture a day. I measured it in dozens of leotards on Dance Tuesday, in a month of Dinovember, in running children and laughing children, in crying children and sleeping children. I measured it in birthday parties, in Halloween costumes, in school picture day outfits. At the end of the year, I looked at my children and they looked exactly the same to me. I wonder if, in a decade, I will look at them and they will still seem unchanged. It’s easy to miss those incremental changes that happen right in front of you.
My friends have a daughter just a few weeks younger than our twins. She’s a creative, strong-willed girl who put her foot down on clothing choices while I was still trying to convince my son that he was capable of putting on his own underwear. Her dad started posting her daily outfits on Facebook, and I was inspired. I knew once I started that my obsessive tendencies would make me continue forever, so I set a deadline of one year of daily pictures. I created an album on my Facebook, and “A Year in the Life of the Aliens” was born.
The very first day should have been my clue that this wasn’t going to go quite as I had imagined. My son refused to participate. Nevertheless, I persisted. I have documentation of temper tantrums and meltdowns; I have photos of one child while the other ran away; I have few actual gems with them being their adorable selves. I even have one of my daughter LOSING HER MIND because—wait for it—I hadn’t taken her picture. Yes, she was wailing and crying that I hadn’t taken her picture WHILE I was taking her picture. It’s still one of my favorites. It ties the one where my son is lying on my daughter’s bare belly and announces that her tummy says she has to poop.
In the end, I’m glad we went through this exercise, and I would recommend it for any parent. Sometimes it was boring. At one point, I looked back and realized I had an entire week of the exact same pose in the exact same location. Nothing earth-shattering happened in those 365 days. Nearly everything we did we will do again: first days of school, birthdays, trips to the dentist, the beach, and amusement parks. In fact, my kids getting their tonsils out is the only unusual thing I can think of that happened.
The fact that this year was so unremarkable is exactly why it was a perfect exercise. The process of taking a picture every day forced me to look at my kids—really look at them. I tried to find something different and unique in the day whenever I could. On those days when I wondered what demon had possessed one of my children, I could look back and remember that we had been through this before and it would pass eventually. I documented the normal cycle of life in our house. The ups and downs and loop-de-loops are all completely and totally normal. Just like every other family out there.
They may be normal and ordinary, these everyday days, but when you take a step back and look at them as a whole they are quite remarkable. I see my children’s unique personalities in these pictures. I see their brains literally growing before my very eyes. I see the things that amazed and astounded them. (A spider named Charlotte spent most of the summer with us, and she is the subject of quite a few pictures.)
I’m printing out the pictures and getting them bound. The kids’ grandparents will love a year of pictures of their adorable grandchildren. I need the visible reminder that whatever current traumatic event my children are undergoing (lost shoe, broken toy, spilled ice cream, whatever), it shall pass and they will return to sanity.
It feels like time moves so slowly sometimes. The daily grind of day-to-day survival with little people can be overwhelming, and we fall into habitual daily activities. But one year went surprisingly fast. When we finished, my daughter was a little sad. I told her that when they are a bit older, I will let them take their own picture every day for one year. That should be a whole new journey where I get to watch them grow for another 525,600 minutes.