This piece is dedicated to all Mothers who attempt year after year (rather fruitlessly), to take family portraits. The Moms who dream of hanging their professional photo above the fireplace, printed on canvas, in coordinating clothes, smiling with teeth (but not-too-much teeth!), stain-free, tear-free…just one moment, to hang in perpetuity. Just one blink: the memory of how we never were. Moms all over America are watching the summer days tick by, and collectively thinking: I need to schedule the photographer, or otherwise dig up the tripod, and start scouting the quaintest locations around town. Start right now, and we might have a glimmer of hope of having something for the family Christmas card. 5 months seems like a long lead time to you? You’re a Dad. Stop reading. This article is not for you.
For the Moms who are trying to turn this dream into a reality, I send you my condolences. For the hours you’ll spend chasing daughters with curling irons and yelling at your sons to tuck in their shirts. Having not a sweat-less minute to get yourself ready while your husband stands at the bathroom door, declaring for the 5th time, “We’re late. You know we’re late, don’t you?” He will swear you look “FINE!”, with a head covered in hot curlers and not a stitch of make-up. You will send him on the Shrek-famed red flower/blue thorn errand, and ask him to feed the kids. Well-played. You just bought yourself 10 minutes with your Chi and hair gel. I send hugs for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he is about to make. Jelly. On portrait day. Of course, your family will call YOU the madman when your head pops off at the sight of grape jelly on the white shirts you spent a month finding in all the right sizes, washing, pressing and sequestering in the back of your closet. And to answer your question: No. Not a single family on earth can stay clean for 20 minutes. In fact, the louder you scream this rhetorical question at your jelly-covered spawn, the dirtier they will get. In math, this is known as a linear relationship. In marriage, this is known as “the next topic to come up in counseling”.
I send extra patience for portraits including extended family. There is nothing more colorful than a Mother-In-Law who loves a good theme. If you thought parenting was full of interesting plot twists, you should not be surprised the year she declares “Bathing Beauties” as the Christmas card theme. As your luck has clearly run out, you WILL get stationed next to the Sister-In-Law training for the Iron Man. Words of advice: there is no position on earth that will make you look evenly remotely thin in this scenario. Trying to bend your head and somehow contort your pale, fluffy arms into a desirable pose will only make you look like a spasmodic-Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. You’re going to have tough this one out, knowing your 40-year-old post-childbirth body in a bathing suit, is being sent to the parental holiday mantel of every girl your husband dated in high school.
The remaining road hazards are child’s play. The kids who roll their faces in poison ivy 3 days before a session with the hardest to land photographer in the city. The faces you’ll make at your husband when he incessantly complains about your efforts to create “the perfect family photo”. Dads? Are you still reading?! ESPN is reviewing the same replay for the 100th time today, and you’re missing it! GO! Where were we? Oh yes…the son who gets a black eye on the ball field the day before the shoot. The daughter who stabs her lip with a fire-hot S’more stick. The other daughter who decides it’s time for a self-styled bang trim. The hay flying into your eyes during the “quaint day in the fields on pumpkins” session. Kids crying and squinting into the sun during your “white and khaki beach evening”. Or God forbid, the day it rains when you were scheduled to lean against the world’s most picturesque barn, which smells like hell on fire. Barns are really rank, America. As a Midwesterner, I’m not doing you any favors by protecting you from this truth.
So should your family decide this year’s theme is “Over-The-Top, We Love America”, take a deep breath and smile in relief. Bright hats hide acne. Flag belts hide muffin-tops. In fact, there will be so much glitz, glam, and confusion on this year’s shoot, no one will even notice the humans. Let the wind wick the sweat right off your pits, as the kids fidget and squirm, and the grandparents toss props about like confetti. This is your year to shine…literally. Godspeed, my fellow Mommas.