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“We brought some toys in case they become difficult”, the parents said.

“That won’t be necessary”, I chirped, for within minutes, Tiffany was peeking playfully from behind her big sister, giggling and teasing and then laughing like crazy. This would be a super-easy, super-fun session, I whispered to myself, as I exchanged funny faces with the little one.

Then, it happened.

Tiffany refused to be photographed. The parents were patient and tried everything – jokes, sweet promises, candies, those toys… but patience has its limits. Voices, once joyful, turned desperate. Why is it so difficult, Tiffany? Just for a family photo? You never smile in pictures, can’t you join us here and smile? Just once?

“It’s ok”, I said calmly, while feeling utterly helpless. “Just let her be and wait for the chance…” Sitting on the floor, camera in hand, I thought of the lessons I’ve learned, of patience, of giving; I thought of the things I preached to you and to all who would listen: “Never force the moment.. let it come to you..”

But it’s so easy to preach.

Tiffany started to cry.

Tears rolled down her little cheeks, eyes red, puffy, and sad. Before I could react, Tiffany walked towards me, one tiny foot-step at a time, and placed her soft, slender arms around my shoulders.

I’ve seen crying kids run to their parents, run away from their parents, run towards the exit, hide behind curtains, play dead. But other than my own children, I’ve never, ever had a crying kid come to me, let alone hug me.

Perhaps the moment was so precious because I had forgotten. It’s been years since I’ve felt little arms around my shoulders, for my kids have grown. I still wrap both arms around my girl’s waist as we walk like penguins, but I no longer hold my teenage son by the hand. Soon, we’ll grow even further from each other, and before I can even say bye, they’ll be gone, far away, living life, finding their dreams…

With Tiffany on my left arm, her warm cheeks snuggled on my neck, I hoisted myself from the floor and, holding that hefty camera with one hand, continued taking photos of daddy, mummy, and Sera. Mummy warned me that Tiffany’s heavy, but in my arms she felt light and soft, like a feather that’s drifted with the breeze and by some higher grace landed on my shoulder.

She seemed reluctant to let go when I set her down. Or was it me who couldn’t let go?

I sat on the floor, legs crossed, and took more photos of the family as Tiffany rested her head on my lap. Then, she was away, running behind me at first, then towards mummy and daddy. Good sister Sera made way for her, and gave little Tiffany every chance in the limelight. Everyone was laughing and happy.

Later that day, mummy texted me: “Thank you for today!”

I replied, “I had fun!”

But I was holding back tears.

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