Patience, Pictures and Toddlers: A Tricky Mix

Monday, December 12, 2011

We took our family photo for the holiday card over the weekend. It was later than last year, but that was the only thing that was different.

Last year, we were living in New Jersey.

Last year, we all donned red Elmo t-shirts and smiled easily, willingly.

Last year, we captured the shot in two takes and carried on with our day.

Last year, we were working with a 21-month-old kid, happy to jump around in the sunlight that coated Mommy and Daddy’s fluffy bed.

This year, the game had changed.

I had been baking all morning. I was probably drunk from vanilla extract and nutmeg vapors, because I decided to start this “it’ll be fun” photo shoot 40 minutes before our son’s nap time.

Indeed, that was the first misstep.

Next, in an effort to produce a unique photo for our card, I came up with another dazzling idea: Let’s you and I dress up, I told my husband the night before, and we’ll let The Youngster wear whatever he’s wearing at the moment. Maybe it’s a truck shirt or some train jammies! It’ll be fun, a cute “guess someone didn’t get the memo” moment.

There’s that phrase again … it’ll be fun.

So we all played our roles and got dressed. Our son, as expected, decided he wanted to wear his green pjs from earlier that morning. The ones with the pancake syrup, you ask? Yes, the very ones. We moved over to the fireplace to get started.

Now, this is where someone should have whispered to me or at least passed along a kind note informing me that the being able to maintain or even predict a toddler’s level of interest in just going along with a plan is a magic trick. One that, when you hear of it being successfully pulled off, causes bullshit detectors to go haywire. Yeah, sure, you kept your 3-year-old quiet for a trans-Atlantic flight. Can you wiggle your way out of this chain vest next, Houdini?

I simply forgot that toddlers can be rather selective with their attention. Who will get it and for how long, is any parent’s guess. And there’s no rhyme or pattern to it either. The whole concept of patience is brand new to them. Some don’t fully grasp it until they’re nearing(or long past!) double digit ages.

The whole photo session ordeal was like watching like a bouncing ball.

I’ll sit here. No. I won’t. I’ll smile. No. Nevermind. I’ll stick my tongue out now.Gonna sit again. On the couch. No. Carpet. Back to couch. Better to stretch out along the arm rest. This is the perfect time for a yoga pose. Downward Dog. Belly flop. I’m swimming on the carpet. Time to gallop.

By the time we were done with the picture-taking — actually, it was more like worn down by it — three things were abundantly clear:

  1. I need a tripod.
  2. Patience is more than a virtue; it’s an imperative life lesson. A tool we keep sharpening every day to ensure it can cut through, with ease, all that parenthood sets on our plates.
  3. All said, I wouldn’t trade the day in for anything.
  • 1
    Kristin says:

    I can barely read the words. I just kept thinking “Goodness Gracious that’s a good-looking family.” I mean really, you guys just roll out of bed and take a photo – eye crusties and all – and send it out. None would be the wiser.

    Please tell us that someone in the family gets adult acne once in a while!

  • 2
    Bay says:

    Omgosh! Our photo taking this fall was a joke. We had a “professional friend” come to the beach for a day of pictures & got one half usable one. ONE!!! There were probably hundreds taken. Don’t feel bad :)

    • 2.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      You know what, Bay? Those disaster-ish photo shoots are nothing if not memorable. When I look at the stream of photos I snapped that day, it actually makes me laugh. Oh, silly parents. Pics are not for kids. :-)

  • 3
    Jessica says:

    First time visiting and I now love you because I still have not done a Christmas photo and you have just made me feel much better about the whole thing. My kids have either been goopy or fighting or whining. Maybe I will go for a real life shot.

    • 3.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      And we’re feeling the love! Welcome, welcome, Jessica. Yes, the family photo shoot is a sit-com (or drama!) wrapped up in a bow. There will always be someone whining or making a sour face or complaining or giving the eye roll of life. But, like you said, maybe the real life shot is the way to go. It could turn out to be the most memorable and fun one yet. Good luck. And definitely keep us posted.