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30 Years of Photos Remind Us of What Matters Most

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Being a parent is one of the greatest blessings and most amazing opportunities in one’s life. It is an incredible journey, one with ups and downs (hopefully mostly ups and very few downs), but every single moment of this journey is one from which we can learn and grow if we take the time to appreciate this awesome adventure and responsibility.

At times, many of us have come up against the feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make time for calm, mindful parenting and family togetherness. Parents find themselves busy with work and other obligations, and these days it seems that children are just as busy with school, extracurricular activities, and full social calendars. Ever-present distractions from technology and the outside world make it easy to give ourselves over to the notion that we will “make time tomorrow.”

Sometimes, it is the small reminders that encourage us to treat every moment with our children as precious. We recently came across a remarkable series of photos that help remind us what being a parent is all about and how quickly time passes.

Tian Jun and his son Tian Li have taken the same photo every year since 1986, the year Li was born in China’s Guizhou Province. The simple image, with father on the right and son on the left, is framed against a stark, white wall outside of their home. They missed only a single year, in 2014, as Li was in the United States witnessing the birth of his own son, Timothy. They added another photo after Timothy was born that makes the slideshow all the more touching.

Jun (the dad) started the ritual because he thought it would be interesting for his son to watch the years pass as they both grew older in a series of photos. Li, who would eventually become a Chinese film director, now sees them as a form of artistic expression, and a testament to the “power of time.”

Time is a powerful force in our lives, and never are we more aware of it than when it comes to our children. The years pass by all too quickly, and time brings changes that are amazing to behold, but also easy to miss if we aren’t mindful of time going by.

This unusual series of photos helps to lend a bit of perspective to the notion of passing time and growing families. To watch 30 years of life pass by in just a minute is a fascinating thing to behold. A growing son, an aging father, and the eventual addition of a new generation tells the story of a family, and shows just how quickly time passes.

The day to day business of our lives can easily distract us from the things that matter most, and in the blink of an eye it seems, children have grown and opportunities have passed. We need to cherish the time we have with our children while they are still under our roofs, to avail ourselves of every chance to be with them (while still giving them time to spread their own wings), and to be there for them.

While these pictures tell the story of time passing for one family, what they do not show is the internal growth that accompanied those 30 years. From photo to photo we can see a young boy grow into a young man, and a proud father enter middle age. What we do not see are the ways in which that father helped his son to grow, to become the man that we see by the end of the slideshow, and the eventual father holding a son of his own.

For every photo in this slideshow there were 365 days of life. For an average family, each picture might represent hundreds of times that the son was dropped off at or picked up from the school or school bus, over 1,000 meals, a million moments and thoughts, and hopefully many more smiles, giggles, laughs, and hugs in between. An entire childhood and the beginning of an adult life are depicted in these photos, but each was shaped by those individual moments. A lifetime lays on film in front of our eyes, but it was lived as a series of days spent together.

Parenthood is a lifelong journey which evolves over time. It is about preparing children to live their own lives, and the joy of eventually getting to watch them do so. Until they do strike out on their own, we have a chance to relish the small moments, the family togetherness, and the ability to be there for them in whatever way they need.

When we are present with our children, bond with them, play with them, educate them, laugh with them, and cry with them, we have a chance to make those moments count, to shape the men and women they will be at the end of their own personal “slideshow.” We have a chance to support them and help them grow, as they help to support us and help us grow.

Cherish being a parent with all your heart, savor your children’s growth, and enjoy the ups and downs with equal vigor.

Pictures can capture snippets of life, and remind us of some of the great moments we have shared. At the same time, they can remind us of the living we still have left to do. Enjoy this remarkable series of photos and the lives they capture. Let them serve as a reminder to seize and greatly appreciate your time with your children. These are the times that will matter most – enjoy every second of them.

If you enjoyed this topic, we recommend our past article “If you are a parent – this is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your kids in 2014.”

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