Growing up we literally took one family photo. One. And it’s hanging in the same spot in the same house as it was originally hung when we took it 30 some years ago. It’s a snapshot of who I was for a fleeting moment around 8 or 10 years old. We weren’t running around in a field or giggling in a forest somewhere, we sat down in a Sears portrait studio and smiled politely for 5 or so minutes so the probably 19 year old taking the photos could snap 4 or 5 shots from which to choose. We were all looking the same direction so that’s the photo that was blown up and found its way into a frame. Done. Checked off the list. Never to be attempted (or more importantly, paid for) again.
But that was before social media.
Nobody else saw the picture unless they came over and actually had to pee since it’s hung outside of the bathroom on the hallway wall. Within the last 10 years or so there has been a boom in these family photos, the marketing of them, and of course the sharing. I of course do it now too and it’s the most stressful, dreaded thing I do with my family all year long.
First there’s finding the photographer and booking them which is of course not cheap. Next is the worst part- the shopping. Apparently we have to look like we’re coincidentally all wearing different versions of the same outfit which is awkward since I have to dress both little girls and my husband vaguely the same way. This year I think it was navy, but then I found some dress for Everly with stars that I thought somehow matched navy, then I bought a skirt for myself that was sort of fluffy that matched Harper’s which was so uncomfortable and unflattering that I rummaged through my closet 15 minutes before the session attempting to match some arbitrary, predetermined color theme that I unfortunately chose. Not to mention the 4 heads of hair I had to straighten, blow dry, brush, and style to look magazine-ready which, as you can imagine, never happens in real life.
After we’re ready comes the part when we ask the girls to basically suspend themselves in mid air as to not get dirty, stained, wrinkled, or mess up the hair that took so long to style. Totally reasonable for 2, 4, and 6 year old girls.
Next we arrive to some far away park which was chosen by the photographer for the leaf content where we see 4 other families all walk around with their photographers sitting on, standing next to, laying above, and even tossing up, leaves. This is why we’re here. Right now at this moment. To pose in front of park leaves. Not our backyard leaves, which apparently aren’t as photogenic. Hot, uncomfortable, hungry, and ready to get it over with, we parade around bribing the girls with the suckers I’ve packed while the photographer tells my kids fart jokes to wrestle authentic smiles out of them hoping for just one picture that I can plaster all over Facebook and a Christmas card if I can finally get my act together enough this year to send one. The pressure sets in on having to get that perfect shot that will represent (to mostly strangers online) how happy we are. And we are, typically. Just not right now sitting on these dirty crunchy leaves.
I literally breathe in and out all day long for these girls, and my saintly husband, but those photos don’t capture us at our best. We’re at our best in the morning when we have a ‘family bed’ and the girls jump in bed with us as they wake up one by one. Or on Sunday evening when Mike and Harper are making dinner while Everly and Lola play nearby and I’m soaking up the whole scene knowing that *gulp* it won’t always be this way.
So although we did take some ‘normal’ pictures, I wanted to also give myself permission to take some that weren’t perfect and to share that one. Because we aren’t perfect, not at all. And maybe sharing that fact might be the best thing to come out of family photo day.
Shout out to Eliana Chaye Photography for your patience. Also note- I told Lindsay about this shot ahead of time and the post isn’t about her talent, but the culture of sharing and the process behind this ritual. She actually took candids too and did a GREAT job in our session.