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Parents are always struggling to get kids to hold still for a just minute so they can get their picture taken all together. I’ve seen the battles at family gatherings. Hell, I’ve sweat my own ass off trying to get my kids to simmer down for a second. Then I take it too far by daring to ask them to look at the camera and smile. But I’m done with that now, and I feel free. Here’s why.
A few years ago, my Mother’s Day went down in flames as we all prepared to head out the door for brunch (something I had to hint long and hard about). I decided it would be fantastic if I could get a picture of myself with my children. I wanted to get a picture to capture the beauty of what was supposed to be a perfect day.
But in reality, there was no beauty. In reality, it was a sh*tshow. No one wanted to go to a stupid brunch, and they sure as hell didn’t want to get their picture taken pretending like they wanted to go to a stupid brunch. I could feel my mood spinning out of control on what was supposed to be a day for me.
What doesn’t feel like a tall order for parents seems to be a huge task for kids. I mean, you can ask any adult in the world to sit or stand still and simply look ahead and smile, and they’re more than happy to do it—after all, the opportunities to slow down and sit still are few and far between for parents. But for our children, we might as well be killing them with our cameras and smartphones. Holding still and smiling doesn’t seem to be in their wheelhouse. As my son has said over and over, “It just doesn’t feel natural, Mom.”
On that fine May morning, my kids could barely look at the camera, much less fake a smile through their clenched teeth. (If you want to see actual misery in a smile, just look at any forced family photo.) I won’t lie, I wasn’t just mad, I was downright pissed off. I stood on our back deck and got my white blazer in a damn knot.
“The only thing I asked was to get a picture with my kids that I love very much. That’s all I wanted, and you can’t even do that for me. I try to make your special days special, but you can’t even hold still for two freaking seconds!” I yelled.
I’m sure the neighbors heard. Perhaps I ruined their Mother’s Day, Or maybe they learned from the crazed woman shouting down the road and decided to stop trying to get their kids to pose for a picture.
And then something happened: While I was screaming my head off, my then-husband took the damn picture. It wasn’t posed or fake, and my kids weren’t smiling through clenched teeth hating their lives. And neither was I. What he captured was real life.
From that day forward, I stopped asking my family to pose for pictures. My phone, Facebook, and Instagram accounts are full of un-posed photos. Ones with weird faces and eyes half-closed. And I am not stressed. I don’t yell during picture time. If my kids don’t want to get in the picture, fine, I’ll take it with whoever does. As an added bonus, I can whip out my phone whenever we’re waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store, so we can laugh at all the outtakes. Somehow we can look back more fondly on the memories those silly photos represent than we would if we were perfectly positioned.
Other mothers have told me they’ve come the over to the “Who cares if they are smiling or looking at the camera, I’m going to take the damn picture,” side after seeing some of my posts. And they are all happier for it. So, who cares if your family smiles and poses? Just get a snapshot of those real moments, and then go about your day.
There are so many things to get wound up about in life. I’ll be damned if trying to make my kids smile and look at the camera is going to be one of them.
Photo: Katie Bingham Smith