An afternoon at home with Stephanie and Haddie, Atlanta Family Photographer


a girl laughs as her mother catches her after a chase during a documentary family photography session

When Stephanie’s daughter lost her two front teeth, she knew it was a special fleeting time that she needed to have documented. During our session, she shared some of her thoughts with me around this milestone, and I asked if she would write them down so I could share them here. Stephanie and I had our daughters one month apart, and I’ve loved experiencing motherhood together with her from the first months of pregnancy. These words hit me hard as I know I will be looking at my own daughter’s toothless smile with bittersweetness sooner than I will be ready. Thanks so much for articulating this milestone so beautifully, Stephanie!


The In-Between

When I was pregnant, I worked hard to not spend the whole 40 weeks simply waiting for baby. I made a point to treat both the pregnancy and the birth as their own sacred entities, rather than a means to an end. Through that journey, I got to know, trust, and honor myself and my body in ways I never had before. In that vein of awareness, when labor began, I was able to recognize that my pregnancy was ending, and soon all of the feelings—both physical and emotional—of that journey would be gone with it. Somehow, I managed to have the same level of consciousness around the birthing process and, when my daughter was born, was able to—amid the chaos—take time to both greet the new life I’d helped create and hold reverent the work I’d just done. Taking those moments to notice the new feelings of an empty belly and life on the outside helped create a pause that forbade me from missing my transition into motherhood. The very moment I became a mother, I experienced a fundamental change in how I perceived and operated within the world. I needed time to process that change, and am grateful to have had the intuitive notion to take the time to do so, rather than simply barreling ahead into this new life.

As with my experience with pregnancy and birth, I have found some places to mark time and have closure along the parenting journey: when my daughter hit major milestones, when she weaned, when she started school…her first this or first that. But, there are so many other things, in between, that I haven’t been able to put a stamp on: when did she stop saying “mazagine” instead of “magazine” or “vecause” instead of “because”? When did she become capable of doing so many things I thought I’d be doing for her for who-knows-how-long? When did she begin to become big?

Logically, I know it’s been happening all along, but in the day-to-day, I don’t notice the little changes as they come, or realize I need to say goodbye to those pieces of her left behind in the wake of new developments. The growing child has no boundaries. We may be aware of when a new chapter has started, but we rarely know when the one before has ended. It’s not often that we get to put closure on the child who was before we start getting to know the child who is. And so, the moments that are full of joy and accomplishment are often equally full of grief and mourning as we bid farewell to our child as we knew them for such a finite amount of time, and welcome the new version in…and it goes on…this revolving door of childhood.

My daughter began 1st grade in August, and the last few months have brought a world of change. The philosophy of the school where my daughter attends imparts wisdom around a period called “The Six Year Change.” The idea highlights this age as a major transitional point that looks and feels like a prequel to adolescence: the body changes, the teeth change, attitudes change (for better and worse), and the baby within the child starts to disappear. I’ve been [mostly] enjoying the experience of my daughter’s growth over these months, but when her top two front teeth fell out last month, it struck me that it was time for me to prepare to bid farewell to my baby, and welcome my daughter as the whole, beautiful, brilliant, challenging human she is becoming. It occurred to me that we are in a time of in-between, and the window in her smile is a beautifully bittersweet reflection of this very thin window separating her early childhood from all that is to come. In that moment of realization, I felt a strong need to take some time to hold space around this moment in our lives, and give it a bit of closure…not for my daughter, but for me. Children don’t miss being babies, they long to be big, and it is my job as her mother to be able to let go so that I can support and revel in her bigness, just as I did in her littleness.

Thanks, Kaleen, for creating this time capsule for us. I will hold this moment close to my heart as I love on my big girl, and miss my baby.
— Stephanie Singletary

a young girl stands on her tippy toes to look at herself in the mirror to put on makeup while her mom is putting on makeup in the background
A young girl holds a makeup brush to her cheek and smiles with a toothless smile
Young girl stands on an indoor swing during documentary family photography session
A young girl walks on hardwood floors with tights not pulled on all the way during documentary family photography session
a young girl makes a funny face in the mirror as her mom combs her hair during a documentary family photography session
Several Barbies float in bathwater in a bathtub during a documentary family photography session
A mother puts her daughter's hair in pigtails during a documentary family photography session
A young girl sits on a swing in her house while her mom holds the swing and looks up at her during a documentary family photography session
A girl puts her hand against a wall to push she and her dog in a red swing during a documentary family photography session
a young girl lies on her mother's lap and closes her eyes during a documentary family photography session
A girl eats a snack and smiles up at her mom with a toothless smile during a documentary family photography session
a mother touches her smiling daughter's nose as they sit next to each other during a documentary family photography session
a young girl laughs while eating a snack and lying on a large dog bed during a documentary family photography session
a young girl lies back on her mother as they sit together on the ground as a small dog lounges on the couch behind them during a documentary family photography session
a young girl climbs a tree and looks back at her mother with a worried face during a documentary family photography session
a mother roars with hands out to her daughter who is facing her and laughing during a documentary family photography session
a young girl looks up at her mom as she pulls her shirt with her teeth during a documentary family photography session
a mother smiles as she watches her daughter on a swing during a documentary family photography session
a girl smiles with joy as she swings on a swing during a documentary family photography session
A mom whispers into her daughters ear while she is on a swing during a documentary family photography session
a girl laughs as her mom tags her during a game of chase during a documentary family photography session
A girl runs in on direction as her mother runs in another direction during a game of chase during a documentary family photography session