Every year, around Christmas time, we attempt family pictures. And every year, I wonder what the heck we were thinking.
Like seriously. Whether it’s a photo shoot with a photographer, or using the timer on an iPhone, one of the kids always breaks. Always.
At first glance, the pictures usually turn out OK, but if you look closer, Chris and I are smiling with angry eyes. Or we’re holding a kid’s hand down. Or a child’s cheeks are red from crying. Or the only reason they’re smiling is because we’re tickling their ribs.
Every year, I swear we’ll never do it again. But by next Christmas, the allure of casually matched outfits and the hope of smiling children’s faces does me in again.
This past Thursday, we decided to give it another go. I was optimistic.
Except, the babies wouldn’t nap. And we needed to meet the photographer at the park by 4:00.
At 2:00, they were jumping around in their beds and I felt a bit concerned. By 2:45, I was basically panicking. At 3:00, they both fell asleep. And at 3:15, I had to wake them up to get ready. However, Enoch usually does OK with very little nap, so I thought we might still make this time the one to remember.
I had prepared so well, guys. I had extra outfits. I had stern talks with the big kids, which may have involved some guilt that they’ll need to process as adults. (“If you love me, you’ll smile in these pictures!”) I packed toys the babies could play with, that would look OK if they ended up in the pictures. I picked the big kids up early from school so we wouldn’t be rushing. We even asked our beloved babysitter to come along and help control the chaos.
But I could not have accounted for the real problem we faced. Never, in a million years, would I have guessed that Enoch would fall in love with the Ohio River.
He got out of the car, saw the sun glistening on those muddy banks and he had to have it. He needed to hold it and love it and no one was going to stop him. But because he is two, he didn’t say it like that. Instead, he refused to walk, his body went limp, and he wailed at the top of his lungs.
We tried to convince him to explore fallen logs and handed him sticks that would normally have thrilled his soul. But all he could do was cry, “Wa’er! Wa’er!”
Our photographer was great at figuring out how to make it work and suggested we let him have that river. So she snapped candid pictures of our family frolicking along the craggy edges of the water, like we were super-outdoorsy people who put on our nicest clothes to do fun stuff like that.
And listen. When we’re taking family photos, it’s not about parenting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to make that kid happy. Parenting is for when there’s no camera.
Which is why our next effort was to try to bribe him (with raisins) to sit on a blanket next to his little sister. It worked pretty good for the 2.5 seconds that he was fisting the raisins into his mouth. And then he was crying for the “wa’er” again.
But our photographer kept telling us, “These are turning out great!” and I believe her. Especially because, look at the preview she posted!:
Years from now, I won’t remember which kid was freaking out in this set of photos. I probably won’t even be able to tell that I’m internally praying that someone will pull it together so we can all look HAPPY.
I’ll just see the cute little faces and I’ll want to book another family photo shoot.
Previous years’ attempts at family pictures. Some professional, some not. But all very stressful at the time, and now treasured forever.