Letting Kids' Passions Flourish

There are many things that I love about what I do. One of them is the moment when working on a new creation that I find the just right mix of materials and the vision clicks into my head for the perfect dress. But this is an old love of mine, from childhood days of sketching gowns and dressing up dolls in my hand-made creations. A new love of mine is getting time to watch and interact with kids during my photo shoots.

All the best pictures of my work are done by my sister-in-law, Kate Eden Renyi, who is an amazing professional photographer specializing in photos of kids and families (you check out her work here!). But often, my product photos are done here in my studio, I have a corner devoted to photos with various backdrops, lights and props.

I work with the children of my friends, real kids, who are not models but are fun and have great spirits that I know will shine through in photographs. I try to keep the mood fun and playful with music they can dance too and, if need be, the promise of balloons and treats after we’re done! I know standing in front of all those big lights and having a camera clicking in their faces can be intimidating so I show them everything I’m doing and how it all works, then we start playing around to see how to get them comfortable to open up, relax and smile.

It’s captivated me over the last few months how each child is so different in what sparks them in order to be able to move past shyness and show their special sparkle. Some kids come alive when joking around, say pretending to be a cat or a tiger. Some kids love to make silly faces or have you make silly faces at them. Or, sorry parents, some kids are delighted when I can lightly poke fun at their mom or dad!

This past Sunday I had Miss M in my studio. I could tell she was enjoying the dresses and she was very cooperative about trying different poses, but I was struggling to get her to open up and really smile. And then it happened. She had changed into a leotard and tutu and I knew she has a dance recital coming up, so I asked her to show me some of her routine. Instantly her expression changed to one of concentration and she went through her routine. And after that she let loose with dance poses and twirls, all with smiles and a light shining through from within. She clearly felt in her element and I even got some giggles from her.

That moment for me was truly uplifting. The energy and excitement that children bring to their passions is some of the strongest and purest that any of us will ever experience in our entire lives. Just being around it and observing it can uplift a grown-up’s spirit.

Thinking about working with these different children, and how the key to unlock  their excitement and happiness is so unique, made me think of my own children and their passions. My son is only 2 so what really sparks him isn’t quite so clear yet (though sneaking into my car to “drive” is the current favorite, sigh). But my five-year-old daughter has truly shown passion over the last few years, skiing.

We put her on skis twice when she was 2. It didn’t go that well. When she was 3 she did a few lessons and got interested. The year she was 4 it was clear that she had a passion. Starting that winter and continuing through this last ski season, she is now an insatiable skier. She will ski through the coldest winds. She will ask to skip lunch to go for a few more runs. She will keep skiing long after she is clearly tired. When she falls, which isn’t often, she laughs and gets up for more. At the end of the day she wants to know when she can go back out again. Needless to say this effortless approach to an activity is not the norm in our lives with a spirited and strong willed kindergartener! Skiing brings out the best of the best of her skills, behavior and character.

My husband and I are really in awe of her love for skiing and how much she will easily overcome to get as much time on the slopes as possible. Luckily we live in the Northeast, close to ski areas, and both like to ski so it’s a fun thing for us to encourage in her. But even if we didn’t, I know we would do whatever we could to make skiing happen for her. Because when you see you child so lit up about something it is electrifying. It feels like peeking into their souls and seeing there not the baby you held sweetly in your arms but all the boundless potential that this whole person contains for the span of their lifetime. And if you as their parent have the ability to foster that, then really you must.

I was speaking with a friend the other day who has been a ski buddy of ours the last few years. We may not see them on the ski hill that much next year because as much as she and her husband love to ski, her son LOVES hockey. For him that’s what he wants to do when he has a choice, that’s what he would prefer to do over any other activity. And so while his parents might prefer to be skiing most weekends, they will be bringing him to hockey rinks and helping him practice and grow in the sport he loves.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that kids’ wishes and desires should trump those of the whole family. And I’m certainly not that you spoil them or press them for it, but if sacrifices must be made in other areas to allow that passion to flourish then we do so. Within the right bounds I think it’s important that we weed out some of the unnecessary in our over-scheduled lives to give real time and devotion to what makes our kids, and ourselves, feel alive.

If you ask my daughter these days what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you she wants to be a swim teacher in the summer and compete in the X-Games in the winter. The first part sounds great to me, the second terrifies me. But it’s also thrills me, what an amazing dream. Who knows if she’ll ever even come close, but how amazing to be five and believe with your heart and soul that you WILL do something. No self-doubt, no fear, just confidence and excitement. I’m happy just to sit close to such a small vibrant person, smell the top of her head which still has that warm “kid” smell, and marvel at what life will hold for her.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. What have you found that sparks your small children? Did it surprise you? Parents of grown children what happened to your kids’ childhood dreams? Any of them come true? Or the opposite?

 One of my favorite of Kate's photos of my work

One of my favorite of Kate's photos of my work

 True exuberance

True exuberance

 What an expression, love it!

What an expression, love it!

 Being a tiger

Being a tiger

 Miss M in her element!

Miss M in her element!

 My daughter's first day skiing at age 2

My daughter's first day skiing at age 2

 Happiest after a long day on the trail

Happiest after a long day on the trail