Family Pictures or Bribing my kids with goldfish crackers or No, I can’t control my 20 month old sons

This past weekend my husband and I and our three sons, ages 4 and 20 months (I have twins) drove down to Providence, RI to have our family pictures taken by one of the amazing photographers, Meg, from Dimery Photography. I have followed Dimery Photography for a long time and absolutely LOVE their work. I was so excited when I asked if they had availability and they did. I was even more excited when Michelle told me she had looked at my website and loved my work – I was on cloud 9 for a week!

So, down we went and I had visions in my head of all the beautiful family pictures we would take. My kids playing together, all 5 of us holding hands, some great family shots capturing the beautiful autumn scenery. I mean, my kids are generally well-behaved guys.  A little crazy and silly, yes, but they can sit still long enough for some pictures to be taken. Typically. And on the drive down I kept thinking to myself – I’m going to be calm, I’m not going to get stressed out, there’s no reason to get all worked up – we’ll just let them be their natural selves and everything will be fine.

Fast forward 45 minutes and I’ve wiped more tears and snot from little faces onto my dress than I can keep count of, my oldest has gone in time out for trying to escape with a prop wagon, my youngest twin is crying unless I’m holding him and my oldest twin is running away every chance he gets. I’m shoving goldfish crackers into little hands and open mouths, singing every song I know, promising munchkins and movies and the moon to get them to sit together for one.single.picture. It was 55 degrees outside and I was sweating. Profusely.

Meg was great. Kept her cool, kept reassuring me that she had great shots and never got frustrated. At one point, my  husband and I looked at each other and laughed as all three kids literally ran away laughing in three different directions. What else are you going to do? If there’s one thing I know from life, from being a mom and from being a photographer of kids – you CANNOT make a child do something they do not want to do. My kids solidified that message in a grand slam way.

And after the session was done and Meg was on her way with what I’m sure were bruised pumpkins and a good laugh, I thought to myself – well, at least the pictures will be true to their character. At the end of the day, would I want anything else? Sure, a picture of all three kids sitting nicely and smiling in the same direction would be wonderful, but it wouldn’t be a true testament to their personalities at this point in time. We will have years of posed, smiling faces – what I wanted was to capture my family in the moment, to see my kids spunk, their joy, their mischief. I have no doubt that we’ll have amazing pictures to choose from, I just realized that I needed to shift my expectations.

What this experience also did for me was remind me what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera. I have no idea what any of the pictures look like, what I look like in them or if my kids cooperated long enough at all for a 1/500th of a  second shutter click (not for lack of trying on Meg’s part though, TRUST me!). That can leave a client with some concern about what the end result will be. With a sense of “Ugh! Why couldn’t they just cooperate for ONE minute!” As a photographer, it’s important for me to remember that feeling.

I was trying hard to remember during my session that even though my family may not have been at their best, I trusted that the person photographing us was capturing the best pictures possible of my family on that day. I think that’s the most any of us can realistically ask for and expect. As a mom and a photographer, I’m not a miracle worker – on this day, nothing I tried to do worked. Nothing. You know when my kids were their happiest? When I stopped trying to force them to fit the expectation I had and let them be themselves. That’s when the ear-to-ear smiles came out and the joy exuded from them. So I had to let go of what I wanted and be happy with what it was. I can’t fault our photographer – her job is to take the best pictures that are available to take, not to magically be able to transform my willful, energetic children into quiet, still little people who smile when asked. If as their mom, I can’t make it happen – why would it be fair for me to expect that of someone else?

Does that “miracle worker” experience happen? Sometimes, Sure. I’ve had sessions where the parents were convinced that their kids were not going to cooperate or smile and I created a connection with the kids and those sessions produced some amazing photos. I’ve also had sessions where in-between the crying and tantrum throwing and running around, the sessions produced amazing photos. At the end of the day, the most important thing I have control over both as a photographer and as a parent are my expectations. I have to keep them in check. And that can be really hard.

I trust Meg and her skill and talent, I’m glad she was there and working as hard as she was to capture the realness of my family. My kids were who they are. I can’t be upset with them. Beautiful chaos – that is our life with three kids under four. With our youngest nearing two, already the newborn/infant time is fading away, seeming like distant memories, I want to hold on to these moments as my children are right now, because this time will also be fleeting.  I know, without a doubt, Meg will give us beautiful memories. As a photographer, that is what I promise my clients I will provide for them. As a parent, I have to remember to relax, be in the moment with my family and take my own advice.



One Reply to “Family Pictures or Bribing my kids with goldfish crackers or No, I can’t control my 20 month old sons”

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