Family Picture Day: The Ugly Truth Behind the Pretty Smiles

Family Picture Day. These three little words strike more fear in a mama’s heart than almost any other combination of words in the English vocabulary.

If you watch closely, her eyes will dilate and her deodorant will be put to the test as she envisions the myriad problems that will present themselves on this sacred day. Sunny skies will suddenly become overcast, and cool fall days will inexplicably turn to humid, summer-like swampfests that render your cute, coordinating sweaters worthless. Normally graceful children will fall and procure enormous goose eggs on their heads, gaping knee gashes, and possibly even broken limbs. Routine makeup application will go completely awry: an eyeliner pencil will careen inexplicably into your cornea, an excessive amount of blush designed to hide your winter pallor will glow like a chemical burn on your cheeks, and a general naivete when it comes to contouring will make you look, well, kinda tribal. In short, Family Picture Days are a recipe for disaster.

But let’s get real here, ladies: Family Picture Day is trauma we’ve inflicted on ourselves. For generations, women have felt driven to capture their families on film by an urge just as primal as the one that compelled us to start a family in the first place. And why? It’s not like we don’t all have a digital camera roll bursting with pictures sufficient to fill 18,000 family albums. In fact, we probably need more family pictures as much as Kylie Jenner needs more lip injections. But women are not exactly known for their measured rationality in situations like these, so yearly Family Picture Days it shall be!

After all, it is from Family Picture Day that many of us get the Family Christmas Card Photo, and the Family Christmas Card Photo serves as the all-important public encapsulation of your year. Sure, you have plenty of pics of your happy brood on social media, but it’ll be over your dead body that 2017 is the year remembered as the year that your family sat around in sweats and greasy hair and grunted at each other without bothering to ever lift their eyes off their screens. No, 2017 will go down in history as the year that your family frolicked together in a golden wheat field or on the shore of a sandy white beach, the fading sunlight bouncing off your clean—squeaky clean—and perfectly styled hair. Isn’t that how we all spend our free time, after all?

And oh, the joys of Family Picture Day are many.

Selecting the Outfits

A closet full of clothes and not one thing to wear!

After you book your session, you decide that you don’t need to rush to pick out outfits right away. This won’t be too hard, you tell yourself. You can definitely make do with clothes you already own. I mean, it’s not like your closets aren’t already filled with decent-looking clothes that you all wear every single day. You’re good.

Fast forward to two days before the photo shoot, and your floor looks like a cyclone literally tore through every single closet, laundry pile, and dresser drawer in your house. Clothes are everywhere: hanging from the ceiling fan, on top of beds, even a few in the bathtub. You are red-faced and close to tears. Why don’t you own any long, gauzy, soft-hued, lace-trimmed maxi dresses? WHY???

Fast forward another four hours, and you, my dear, are now the cyclone blowing through every store in your local shopping center. The very stores that always seem to tempt you with complete cuteness overload are today falling short. You can find nothing that will work. Nothing. TARGET, why have you forsaken me???

As you drive home completely defeated and exhausted, you kick yourself for not having more trendy clothes at home in the first place. You never branch out, you scold your rather basic self. You never take fashion risks, and you’re stuck in a rut. Time to face the facts: You’ve always been a loser, and you’re always gonna be a loser. Things are kinda starting to unravel here.

You go home and start panic-shopping online. You are breaking all your personal boundaries: considering pieces not in the clearance section AND paying for expedited shipping to make this happen. You make a mental note to never, EVER again wait until the last minute to select outfits for Family Picture Day.

Once your outfits arrive, you want to make sure they look as good on film as they did in your somewhat untrustworthy mental space. You lay out your outfits and take pictures of them from above like you’re some sort of Instagram fashion blogger. You’re so in the moment you even lay out accessories and do the cute little bend in the elbow of the shirt sleeve. You take a minute to admire your work, and you are pleased. Game on.

Getting Ready

You wake up at 5:00 A.M. Surely this will allow enough time to get ready before your children wake up and prevent any progress from being made. You shower and blow-dry your hair…in the same day. As if that isn’t miraculous enough, you also go the extra mile and curl your hair with an actual styling tool. You are like a regular Jose Eber up in here.

You then slather on ALL the cosmetic products: eye shadow, foundation primer, eyebrow pencil, bronzer, lip liner. You name it, you apply it. When you’re finished, two hours later, you step back and admire the aesthetic mastery looking back at you in the mirror. You make a mental note: you need to shower and put on a full face of makeup more often. You are one smokin’ hot mom.

Getting Out the Door

Everything is going pretty smoothly leading up to your departure time. You have planned, you have executed, and you are hustling like you’ve got a cart full of groceries at H-E-B 30 minutes before school lets out. And then—wouldn’t you know it—your husband happens. He saunters in two minutes before you were supposed to MEET the photographer wearing a shirt other than the one you selected for him. Sound the alarm! Someone’s trying to go rogue.

You are willing to let his tardiness slide without retribution, but unfortunately for everyone involved, that generosity marks the end of your niceness allotment for the day. “What are you wearing?” you hiss at your husband, unable to stop the tiny red death beams from shooting out of your eyes. 

“I’m NOT going to wear that stupid shirt you picked out for me,” he retorts, puffing up as if to assert his dominance.

“Fine!” you reply with disdain. “Fine, fine, FINE. I don’t know why I EVER bother trying to do anything nice for this family.” You throw your arms into the air for dramatic effect and stomp out of the kitchen in case your message wasn’t loud and clear in the verbal delivery.

And then the next thing you know, the whole fam damily is in the car on the way to the photo shoot. The silence is thick and steely as you drive to eternally commemorate your family’s enduring and tender love for each other. Meanwhile, you are mentally debating which of your friends you can turn to in the strictest of confidence for a divorce lawyer referral. You want someone vicious and calculating. Someone who will make your husband forever regret his decision to forgo your wardrobe recommendation for this shoot. He should pay for this…literally.

At the Photo Shoot

Not five minutes into the photo shoot, your photographer asks you and your husband to look into each other’s eyes and “just snuggle a little bit.” What she doesn’t know is that what you’d like to do is look into his eyes and “just push him off a cliff a little bit.” So you try not to grit your teeth as you lean into him, and then something funny happens. You catch a whiff of his cologne (or deodorant, as the case may more likely be), feel those strong biceps (and convince yourself they’re wound tight around you in a passionate embrace instead of like a boa constrictor trying to squeeze his prey to death), and suddenly your mood changes. Time to call off the legal hounds—this little relationship of yours may live to see another day.

But not so fast! Another 30 minutes into the session and tensions bubble to the surface again. The kids are running around like banshees, the heat is starting to get to you, and your husband says something about how his shirt is too small and maybe he should’ve gone with your wardrobe recommendation after all. That’s it—all bets are off. You unleash upon him all the fury and pent-up stress of Family Picture Day. He’s laughing at the absurdity of your outburst, and the photographer is standing there, bewildered, not knowing whether to capture the moment and hope someday you’ll look back on it and smile or look the other way.

So, yeah, that went well. Clients of the year over here.

The Results

Several weeks later, after what seems like an eternity, you receive the proofs back from the photographer and are overjoyed with all the lies beauty that she’s captured. Your children look like angels, you look like a supermodel, and your husband looks as into you as he was on your third date. This is no ordinary, shoved-to-the-back-of-the-pile Family Christmas Card Photo. This is one that will be displayed front and center in the homes of your friends all across the land. This is Christmas Card gold.

And just like that, your fate is sealed. You are hooked again. You will forget all the drama, all the trials and tribulations, all the obstacles that almost prevented you from getting to where you are today. I hate to break it to you, my dear, but you will most definitely be taking another Family Christmas Card Photo next year. Say “cheeeeeeeeeeese”!!

, , ,

6 Responses to Family Picture Day: The Ugly Truth Behind the Pretty Smiles

  1. Rachel December 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    I know exactly where this is!!

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth December 7, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

      It’s such a beautiful spot, Rachel! I live all of 15 minutes away from the Park and had never been. Such a shame. We’ll definitely be back!

  2. Ashleigh December 4, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

    Oh my god this is perfection!!! We did ours this past Saturday and I literally flared st my husband and shook a deadly hair wand at his face, “Today is my birthday and you will NOT say one word about how much you hate these photo shoots. I will shove this up your…” you get my drift!

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth December 5, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

      A deadly hair wand!!! I love it!!! Girl, you were under severe duress – a birthday AND a photo shoot?!? God bless you. I’m not sure why men have such an aversion to photo shoots…I mean, they’re just such a lovely experience for everyone! 😉

  3. Jo Anne Young December 2, 2017 at 7:44 am #

    Love this hilarious recounting of what we’ve all experienced!😂😀

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth December 5, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

      Thanks Jo Anne! I appreciate the affirmation that I’m not alone!!!