Have you ever tried to take a Christmas photo of your own five children? There are reasons that there are professional photographers, and many reasons that I am not one of them.
I take pretty nice photos, the candid and artistic kind, but I can't get all five of my children to look at me and show something approximating a smile all at the same time. I know because I've tried. I've tried on many occasions at all times of day. I've dragged them outside when the sun is just peeking over the horizon and the day is new. I've taken pictures when the noonday sun illuminates all the world around us. I've shot them when the children are all curled up in a quiet moment in the house. I hate every one I've taken.
What is a mom to do four weeks to Christmas, on a tight budget that doesn't include professionally photographed Christmas cards, and a huge list of relatives who will be disappointed if they don't get a picture this year?
Is it that I haven't captured that elusive, and I fear fictional, perfect moment when the stars align and the children look exactly the way I imagine they will? Or is it that I have set my standard of what is acceptable too high? All I want are images which show how lovely our mob is and not make them cringe at their imagination of our lives. I worry about what other people think of us, and more truly what they think of the choices we have made. I have one chance every year to change the minds of the nay-sayers and this year I'm falling down on the job.
I have heard all of the trite sayings about paying no attention to the opinions of other people, but the truth is that deep down we all do. There is not one of us who really welcome derision and scorn. We all want a measure of approval for the way in which we lead our lives, even those of us who are counter-cultural. Maybe especially those of us who are counter-cultural. We live so far outside the boundaries of what is "normal" for the rest of society that it can make us question if we really are as strange as other people think us to be.
It's asking a lot of one photograph, and I know it. I don't care. I just want to shoot that one which makes people sigh and get misty-eyed and wish they could be at my house on Christmas morning because that must be a fun time. And it is, it really is.