How NOT to Handle a Family Photo Shoot (A Guide for Fellow Moms Based on My Own Tragic, Tragic Mistakes)
You know how it’s commonplace to compare disasters to the Hindenburg? Well, I wanted to personally alert you to the newest, hottest metaphor in town — because after my family’s first-ever professional family photo shoot last weekend, people surely are going to start gasping, “Oh my gosh, it’s almost as disastrous as the CANDY KIRBY FAMILY PHOTO SHOOT OF 2013!”
I thought I had it all figured out. I had the family dressed in complementary, but not too matchy-matchy, clothes. I cannot overstate how important this was to me: “By God, NO MATCHING POLO SHIRTS!” I implored Mr. Candy, who was raised in a Pro-Matching-Polo-Shirts household. And bless my husband’s heart, he turned his back on everything he had been taught to believe about family portraits and dutifully bought a lovely green shirt to complete the blue-yellow-green motif the photographer had suggested. My hair was even cooperating for a change, falling to my shoulders in casual waves rather than its usual dirty-looking frizz. This was likely due to the fact that I had actually washed it for once. Our 22-month-old son, Drew, took a two-and-a-half hour nap before the photo session. Hallelujah! I cheered, patting myself on the back as we left the house ON TIME, my bag full of snacks, extra diapers and even a change of clothes in case of emergency. (Meaning: If Drew purposely spit Cheerios all over himself and his sister, as he has been known to do. All part of his charm.)
You would think that after being a mom for almost four years that I would know that the best-laid plans of moms and dads often — nay, ALWAYS — go awry when there are kids involved. But no…! I was so eager for a good family portrait that I deluded myself into believing this time would be different. I was having a good hair day, after all! What could possibly go wrong?
Such was my first mistake. Because the question should have been: What couldn’t go wrong?
My daughter, Skye — well, let me preface this by noting that she is generally well-behaved for a three-year-old. I know that “generally well-behaved for a three-year-old” could be defined as ” doesn’t blow up our house that often,” but she really is a good kid. So I don’t know if Drew blew Cheerio chunks in her ears or what because she did not listen to a single word the photographer said. Or Mr. Candy said. Or I said. Or the Family Portrait Gods, to whom I was praying for help, may have said to her. If the photographer, who also happened to be one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met, told Skye to stand on the right, she would go left — and, oftentimes, just keep on going so we would have to chase after her. If the photographer told her to stop putting me in a choke-hold, she would squeeze tighter. And laugh evilly. It got so bad, and so embarrassing, that Mr. Candy took her aside and gave her a stern talk. Which is always wise: when you want good pictures of the family, MAKE THE KID CRY!
But it seemed like a good idea to both of us at the time.
Twenty minutes into the shoot, and my hair realized its nice waves were being wasted, so it returned to its frizzy roots. Sweat stains decorated my silk blouse (attractive) from running after both of the kids. The headband I had so painstakingly chosen to match Skye’s dress had been tossed on a pile of dirt, and Drew…? Was still pissed that I tricked him into wearing a sweater vest at the last minute. It seemed that no amount of bribery — lollipops and chocolate and Mommy’s eternal gratitude… oh my! — would mollify our daughter. She was determined to achieve the Hindenburg level of family photo sessions, and I’ll be darned if we didn’t reach it. We were doing pretty much everything you shouldn’t do at a photo shoot, and by “we,” I mean both the kids and us. The kids were acting wild, yes, but Mr. Candy and I were also guilty of becoming too frustrated and too controlling, too soon.
Meanwhile, the photographer’s assurances of “It’s okay! Really!” grew increasingly softer and less convincing.
When it became clear that my dream of getting a nice family portrait would remain just that — a dream — we packed up the kids, dejected, my blouse more sweat than silk at this point. We drove to dinner in silence, the kids finally quiet in the backseat. Of course. Drew and Skye were even well-behaved at the restaurant, having expended all of their demon-like energy at the photo shoot. An older lady, clearly taken with the sight our well-dressed and obedient kids, came over to me and cooed, “I’m sure you hear this all the time, but your children could be in magazines!”
I chuckled to myself for the first time in hours, thinking of our kids at an all-day magazine photo shoot. But rather than snorting in the nice woman’s face, I simply smiled and thanked her, then reflected on what we could have done differently that day.
Maybe next time we should wear matching polo shirts.