Anyone who has raised kids knows the truth of the saying, "the days are long, but the years are short." Parenting when you're in the thick of it can feel neverending, but in hindsight, the time goes by too fast. Kids grow and change so constantly, it's hard to keep up. You blink and suddenly your baby becomes a toddler, your toddler becomes a kid, your kid becomes a teen and your teen becomes a full-fledged adult.
As time goes by, you try desperately to document it while also staying in the present. It gets harder with each kid, as life gets busier. (A commonly joked-about reality is how the first baby gets an elaborate baby book and the last baby gets a few photos on a hard drive somewhere.) But one dad purposefully set out from the start to create a record of his daughter's growth and change, and the result is nothing short of extraordinary.
Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester started filming his daughter Lotte for just a handful of seconds a week starting as a newborn. It's the kind of thing a lot of parents might plan to do or start doing but not stick with. Hofmeester kept it up, though, always filming Lotte in front of a plain cloth background. Putting the videos together as he went, he created a time-lapse of her growing up, which has received viral attention multiple times as he's released updated compilations every few years.
In 2019, Hofmeester shared the "Portrait of Lotte 0 to 20 years" video, in which we can see Lotte grow from an infant to an adult in just five minutes.
People found the video surprisingly emotional, even though they don't know Hofmeester or Lotte personally. Indeed, seeing someone's entire childhood zoom through time like this is moving, even if we don't have kids of our own. We've all been through the growing-up process ourselves, we all have a flood of memories from our formative years and we all know how quickly it all goes.
Those of us with kids see our own children in this video, which is even more striking than seeing ourselves.
"I wanted to document the growing up process and create an artistic project we could all enjoy forever," Hofmeester shared in another video. He has also created the same kind of video for his son, Vince. In an article in The Guardian, Hofmeester explained why he decided to dedicate himself to the project:
"When Lotte was born, she was changing at such a rapid pace, and I was desperate to keep the memories intact. As any parent knows, the difference between a child at two days old and two months old is startling. When Vince was born, I started filming him too. Other people might make a photo book, but I decided to film. This is the most photographed and filmed generation ever, but what are we actually doing with these pictures? They just sit in a file on the computer. I wanted to try and convey the essence of my children, of how they look to me. We don't often look at the photographs we take, not in the same way that an artist would look at his paintings."
Lotte is now 22, and Hofmeester shared a yearly version of her growing-up compilation just a few months ago. In this one, we get to see her on each birthday, saying a few words (in Dutch, of course). It's amazing to see the differences from year to year.
"One of the reasons that the project has had such an impact, I think, is because it's very moving," Hofmeester wrote. "People are touched by it because it conveys a feeling of the soul. They've written to me about their own children. The film makes you realise what life is about, in a direct way."
Imagine being able to see your whole childhood documented this way, or to have a record of your kids' growing-up years that was so succinct. What a lovely gift this father and filmmaker has created for his children—and for the rest of us as well.
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