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A Tale of Two Christmas Cards

Every year, about a month before Christmas, moms across the country start to feel the mounting pressure.   It’s time to design that perfect holiday photo card; the one that will be the envy of everyone in our address books.  We obsess  – sometimes for months in advance – over Pinterest boards full of elegant color schemes and creative photo poses.  We adjust our already overstretched budgets to make room for matching outfits and a professional photographer sitting fee.   We willingly bribe our children with candy, toys, cash…anything to get them to wear the clothes we bought, smile, and pretend to love each other for 30 minutes.  Then, we spend hours and hours online designing a card that can compete with our friend, Susie Supermom’s, masterpiece from last year.  All in the name of spreading a little holiday cheer!

This year, I am that mom.  After weeks spent coordinating outfits, I still went shopping the day before for matching tights, and we stopped at the gas station on our way to the photo shoot to buy Sour Patch Kids, which we used to bribe our 3-year-old for every “pretty” smile he gave us.  (Literally.  Have you ever seen the sea lion show at the zoo where they throw the sea lion a fish every time he does a trick?  It was just like that.  Except…Milo isn’t as well-trained as that sea lion.)  

We hadn’t had family pictures taken in years, and if I was going to go to all the trouble anyway, I was sure as heck gonna use those (hopefully) picture-perfect portraits on this year’s Christmas card.  (Coming soon to a mailbox near you!)  

But last year, as that 50% off coupon from Shutterfly taunted me from behind it’s refrigerator magnet, I just didn’t care anymore.  Maybe all that turkey at Thanksgiving had left me feeling lazy, and less than thrilled at the idea of being photographed.  Maybe I was exhausted from fighting the crowds on Black Friday.  Maybe the thought of wrestling my (then) 2-year-old into his dress clothes seemed like just enough to shrink my heart two sizes and turn me into the Grinch.  But whatever the reason, last year I decided to ditch the idea of the perfect family photo and have a little fun instead!  

I taped some wrapping paper to a wall in our basement, grabbed a few fun Christmas props from the local party store and asked Mike to figure out the rarely used timer on the camera.  Then, for about 30 minutes one Sunday afternoon, our family of four, wearing comfy jeans and Christmas t-shirts, huddled together making silly faces and swapping props for the camera.  There was no whining, no bribery (Well, maybe a little.  I mean, we were still dealing with a two-year-old…But do Pop-tarts really count as a bribe?).  No color-coordinating or extra hairspray involved, and by the time we were done, we were all exhausted…but laughing.  

Don’t get me wrong…as I looked through the dozens of photos we had taken, I still stressed a little over which shot hid my double chin and whether Tessa (my 7-year-old) was making her “creepy” smile or her sweet one, but in the end I knew that the imperfections in those photos wouldn’t be nearly as memorable as the fun we had had taking them.  

1207161017a  *Note the Poptart in Milo’s hand!  Sorry, not sorry!

The cards I finally created for Christmas 2016 were more fun and festive than any posed family photo card (including 2017) could be.  They were real; and they captured the true Christmas spirit.  Instead of a carefully choreographed family glamour shot, It felt nice knowing that our silly grins would bring a smile to people’s faces, and that I was sending out real holiday cheer…and getting a little bit back in the process!

So if you are out there wondering what to do about this year’s Christmas card, keep one thing in mind.  The purpose of a family photo is to capture a memory, not put on a show.  If you choose to have those professional pictures taken, like I did this year, good for you!  But do it for you, and try your best not to stress out about the details.  After all…the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.  And if you just don’t have it in you this year, that’s okay!  Post your season’s greetings on social media, send out handwritten notes to close family and friends, have a fun, family photo-booth like I did…..or just skip the whole thing and enjoy spending time catching up with the people you love!  

After all, that’s what this whole Christmas card thing is all about!

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