All mothers know that there are few events more stressful than having children's pictures made. When photographing babies, moms pray that the diaper stands up to is leak guarantee and that all projectile spit-up episodes are reserved for after the session. When dealing with toddlers and preschoolers, moms hope that the promise of a post-picture treat will be just enough to keep the tantrums and tears at bay. Last Saturday morning we dressed the children in their holiday finery and set off for our local botanical gardens in hopes of getting a few decent pictures to splash across our yearly Christmas greeting. A generous friend offered to meet us there and snap off a few photos with her super fancy camera.
There were smiles, there were frowns, there was a bit of disharmony about who would stand where and when. Somehow we managed to get a few pictures that show our family of four, merrily smiling at the camera, looking as if we always sit in a beautiful garden wearing freshly pressed clothes with perky expressions on our faces.
When I send out these cards in a few weeks, I almost wish I could tuck a little note in with the card. The note would say something along the lines of "Don't mistake this picture as an indication that we have it all together over here at casa de phillips. We are a bit of a mess some days.". The truth behind the picture is that Miss E. actually arrived at the gardens only wearing tights, bloomers and shoes because I feared her dress would become wrinkled by the car seat. Isaac had to be bribed with the promise of a package of M&Ms. I fretted around, saying such things as "Don't run (translated to a kid as saying "Don't have fun")" and "Don't you dare get mud on your clothes."
Although our picture conveys a perfect little family, tied together in a perfect little bow, we are not such a clique image on a daily basis (or on an hourly basis). Today, following along in my sharing of things I am thankful for, I am thankful for imperfections. I am thankful that all though our Christmas card might portray a cookie-cutter family, I know that 72 pictures out of the 139 taken involved Miss E. scowling at the camera. I am thankful that I know that the pictures showing a brother and sister enjoying a walk in the woods on a pretty fall morning were really the result of a mother anxiously begging them to just hold hands and smile (which they never did). I am thankful that the four of us simply did not wake up looking as we do on that Christmas card. Rather than was rushing around to get everyone dressed, there was parental reminders of "Please put on your Buzz Lightyear underw*ar now before I cancel Christmas", and there was fussing about what was served at Breakfast that morning.
As we all focus on things that we are thankful for this week, take time to be thankful for life's imperfections. Know that behind other people's Christmas card smiles is a bit of frustration, a touch of heartache and a tad of stress. That does not make them bad or worse off than you, it simply makes them human. Be thankful for life's imperfections and embrace them. Things would be pretty boring otherwise.
About those 72 pictures of a scowling Miss E....well, one day they will find their moment to shine in Miss E's wedding video.