I do it to myself every year. I have no idea why. It is never easy. It is always stressful. Each year I swear that this is the last time I will put myself through this. I am speaking about my annual Christmas photo.
Taking your kids for a holiday photo the week before Christmas is the perfect storm for disaster. I know this. It is my own fault.
Tradition is important to me and years ago I decided that our family Christmas tradition would include a professional holiday photo of the Miss J and M. We decorate frames and each guest receives a framed photo at their place at the table for our Christmas Eve dinner. Our guests consist of grandparents and a grandparent-like friend and they look forward to getting their photo each year.
Today was our appointment to have the photo taken. Miss J and M had fresh holiday haircuts. They had new outfits to wear for the picture. We were ready. It was going well. Until Miss J informed me (twenty minutes before we had to be out the door), that she was unable to find her tights.
Let me explain my Miss J. Miss J will lose anything you give her. She cannot keep track of anything to save her life. Also, being that she is nine years old, we are in a perpetual battle on the condition of her room. I like neat. I like tidy. I like to be able to see the bed and the floor. I like things put away in their proper place. For Miss J, "cleaning her room" means tossing things behind the bed and bureau or cramming whatever will fit into drawers.
Tension was rising.
We were short on time, yet I found myself delivering the "How-many-times-do-I-have-to-tell-you" speech.
"Miss J, I have you those tights and asked you to put them in your top drawer. Did you?"
"Yes, I am sure I did."
"Then where are they?"
"I don't know."
"You need to find them. Now."
"I don't need tights. I'll go without."
"No. You won't. Go find your tights."
I left Miss J to locate her tights and found that M has helped himself to the apples in the bowl on the kitchen counter. Seven of them to be exact. I found seven apples, all with several bites in them, all over my kitchen and living room. There are apple bits in M's hair, on his glasses and all down the front of his new sweater.
It gets better:
The day before, my black lab, had unwrapped every gift that was under our tree. She ate most of the wrapping paper and tissue. Now she had diarrhea.
Missing tights. Apples everywhere. Dog diarrhea.
I am now yelling. At everyone. I am muttering words under my breath that I do not allow my children to say.
We have no time. I have Miss J put on different tights. I change M's sweater. I hope for the best with the dog. I load everyone into the car and amazingly, we arrive at our appointment on time. I look at Miss J and realize she has not brushed her hair. I fish an old comb out of the bottom on my purse and do what I can.
We are called for our sitting. The photographer's day seems be be going no better than mine. I am sympathetic. I picture pushy parents and screaming children and know her job is not an easy one.
My sympathy did not last long.
The session begins. The photographer tells me that I need to remove M's glasses, otherwise there will be glare. I explain that 1. M needs his glasses because he is practically blind and 2. I want M to look like M. Without glasses, M does not look like himself. Photographer huffs and tells me that now a lot of the pictures will not look good.
Point a camera at M and he will tell you, "I say, 'cheese!'" He knows his part. He tells the photographer this. She ignores him. She tells M, "Stand next to J.....not that close....put your head next her hers...tilt your chin down...put your hands in your pockets....no, put your hands in your pockets but leave your thumbs out...no, hook your thumbs on your pockets....no...just put your chin down a little, don't look at the floor." He is confused. He has no idea what to do.
"I say 'cheese!'" M offers, happily.
The photographer is now maneuvering Miss J into position.
Clearly this isn't working.
"M might do better if we let him sit. Miss J can sit next to him. I'm not picky about the how they are positioned, I just want a nice smile."
The photographer rolls her eyes and agrees. "This is as good as it is going to get," she tells me. I go to brush Miss J's hair out of her eyes and the photographer reminds me that we don't have a lot of time. She snaps a few more shots and announces we are done.
I send M and Miss J to play at the Lego table while I view the pictures. I tell her what I really want is a nice photo of the two of them together, but clearly, I am not escaping until I have heard the entire sales pitch. She shows me each photo in color. Then in black and white. Then with special effects. Then the montage.
M is losing patience. Miss J is just plain bored. I am on borrowed time.
The photographer tells me I can order a calendar, a mug or a mouse pad.
"No thank you. I really want this picture with this package."
M is now announcing to the patrons in the waiting room that he is ready to go home now.
The photographer continues, "But if you order that package, you won't get the complimentary CD."
"No thank you." I am calm, but crisp.
"If you opt for this package you can get our newest product, a photo on stretched canvass."
M's announcements that he is ready to leave are getting louder. Miss J, trying to be helpful, is talking equally loud and telling M to be quiet.
"But the canvass makes a very nice gift."
I just want to leave. And this woman is trying to torture me.
"I don't want a canvass. You are about one minute away from witnessing my son's total meltdown. Just give me the package I want. Now. Please."
She finally notices M's impending meltdown and rings me up.
I left feeling utterly shredded.I want nothing more than let out a primal scream. Once again I have vowed that I will never do this again, that the stress and aggravation are just not worth it.
I glance at the photos and see the smiling faces of Miss J and M. I think about the grandparents who will be receiving the photos as gifts. I smile and head toward the car.