I always ask my families to fill out a short-ish questionnaire before every session. Not just before the first session, mind you, but before every session. For some people who have me over once or more every year, I’m guessing this might seem superfluous and unnecessary. (“You KNOW us,” they might say, “You’ve been coming every year since the baby was born. We exchange Christmas cards, and my kids charge at you when they spot you in public.”)
But here’s the thing. The questionnaire isn’t just about ME getting to know YOU before the session. If that were the sole purpose, once would be enough, right? It’s also about YOU thinking about where you are right now as a family. And me, being caught up and watching for the dynamic you describe. When this family’s mom filled out her questionnaire for this most recent session, she really gave me a shining example of this purpose in action. A few excerpts:
“C is all about being 7, can be amazing with her younger brother, but quick to roll her her eyes with impatience at her siblings …. F has strong beliefs in right vs. wrong, is the quickest to say thank you and I love you, and the first to say you are the worst parent in the world. … T has figured out the power of his tears and pout and isn’t afraid to use them. Adores C, who has put him to sleep when there is a sitter, and butts heads with F, but I can already see how they will be scheming against us as they get older.”
And here’s an excerpt from my response to Mom after reading the questionnaire but before shooting the session:
“It’s funny, I DO know your family, but I feel like the people who really take the time to put thought into completing the questionnaire have already begun the process of experiencing what I like to think of as the “LYYP experience” — really thinking about each of their family members — what makes them tick, how they’ve changed since last time, how they’ve stayed the same, how their relationships have evolved, predictions about the future — all that. In the whole ‘keeping your head above water’ game that is parenting, it’s easy to skim over that stuff. I appreciate that you get all this and it makes me all the more excited for our next session. :)”
Mission accomplished, sort of, before I even show up to take a picture. But of course, there’s more. When you know what you’re looking for, it’s much easier to find it. (And capture and save it forever and ever and ever). So, here is an excerpt from the set of photos that emerged from my collaboration with mom and my morning with this fun and beautiful family:
We certainly have a good time, and a really, really do enjoy watching the progression of these little people within their loving family.
Thanks for looking,
P.S. You can see this family’s previous session HERE if you like.