“On Top of the World“
All birthdays are special, but the sixteenth feels particularly different to me. At this age, I feel like the child is definitely gone. The awkward early teen years are passing. The adult version of your child is emerging. Conversations change, they become a little more serious, sometimes a little more heavy. Sixteen year olds are more independent, they don’t want us to tell them what to do anymore, but they still need us around. So parenting has to change.
Time is passing so quickly. The evidence of the passage of time is never clearer to me then when I look at photos of my boys from one year to the next.
Rohan, my second son, arrived in Melbourne at 13 years old. He had the misfortune of having his 14th and 15th birthdays during some sort of lockdown status. So we never celebrated as freely as we’d hoped. We celebrated at home or with small groups as restrictions allowed and made the best of the situation. This year, with travel restrictions lifted and borders opening, we headed back to the US to celebrate his 16th birthday with some of his old friends in California.
It was a delight and shock to see all Rohan’s friends now as maturing young men who I now literally looked up to. I’m appreciative they all indulged me to photograph them throughout our trip.
The first day we took hiked the trail to “Old Inspiration Point.” While the clouds threatened to rain on us, it never did.
After lunch in the Village our group split up. Rohan spent some time with one of his friends walking the easy trail to Lower Yosemite Falls. It’s an iconic and easy must see for any trip to Yosemite. As a parent, I especially enjoyed watching the boys deep in conversation about how their lives had changed since three years ago before our move.
The second day was our day of new adventures. We left the Yosemite Valley and headed to the Yosemite high country where the air is thin and so are the crowds. I led the group on a trail to take us to the top of Lembert Dome. From there you can look down on the high country to Cathedral Rocks, Tuolumne Meadows and rock formation for miles and miles. We lingered at the summit and soaked in the silence and solitude before heading back down.
After our hike to Lembert, we headed to Tenaya Lake, the jewel of the lakes in Yosemite’s high country. Here we picnicked on the beach, blew up our paddle boards and paddled away until the sun set. It was an idyllic evening. We had the beach and this part of the lake all to ourselves. I could not have dreamed of a better way to end our afternoon.
On the final drive out of the high country we pulled over to look at Half Dome from a Olmstead Point. We said goodbye for now to Yosemite and left with tired bodies but full hearts.
In all the uncertainty and anxiety that can come with watching a teen emerge into adulthood, the photos I have taken and look back on remind me to be grateful. Grateful that I get a front row seat to the lives of my kids and grateful for every season of parenting.
Take time to photograph your teens, even if they don’t seem into it. Birthdays are an easy time to remember to pause and take a few photos as they are. Nothing fancy, just take them out and get some photos at a the park or in the city. Don’t forget to get in some of the photos yourself.