It goes like this. I give my family a heads up about one week out that we have family pictures scheduled. I steel myself for the collective groan.
I then start trying to throw outfits together that will solicit the fewest sighs and rolled eyes. My oldest daughter has decided she will never again wear dresses or jeans and will only allow sherpas. My youngest daughter will only wear what her older sister will wear. My husband, who has lost weight, will not buy anything new, so I am forced to try to shrink one of his few shirts that is not a concert tee. Oh and what about me? To be honest, in the end, I quit trying to match everyone and just let it be a free for all. My most willing participant is our dog, Marge. She always looks stunning.
So why do I do it? Why do I force family pictures every year? Well, at first it is the obvious reasons. I need pictures for a holiday card. I love getting them from friends and family and love sending them out as well. I also frame one for our photo collage wall in the hallway between all of our bedrooms.
But the real reason I do it is because I find myself pausing in that hallway a little longer each year a new picture goes up. It is a timeline of our lives that shows our daughters turning from little roly-poly butterballs into tall, lanky kids.
I remember the details of our first family photo shoot as clear as day. Our first daughter was not even a month old. We had a photographer come to our house as I was in the throes of desperately trying to figure out breastfeeding while not getting sleep. I was sweating and panicking about what would fit on my postpartum body. My husband and I have slightly glazed looks on our faces. We were nervous, exhausted, and completely unsure of what the heck we were doing as parents.
Our first family of four picture a few years later was better. I was cradling our newborn, my oldest daughter was standing on her own, and my husband and I looked slightly more sure of ourselves. We had also learned at that point that extra snacks and candy can get you just about anything you need from a toddler.
As the pictures progress through the years, there are more shots showcasing the girls’ growing sisterhood. You can see their personalities coming to life in those pictures. I notice the laugh lines on my face deepen over the years. It’s proof I’m more relaxed and smiling more as we get more comfortable as a family. It’s fascinating to see the changes that can happen in just one short year. And to remember all the memories, the “firsts,” the good times and bad that happen in between those annual photo shoots.
I can almost always count on a good argument, tears from someone, and me angrily whispering “At least LOOK like we’re a happy family, dang it!” during photo shoots. But in the end, I am proud of us. I am proud of us making it through another year together. I am proud that we somehow continue to navigate ups and downs, even when we sometimes want nothing more than to push each other away. We figure it out.
And I get my annual family picture to hang in the hallway.
All photos by Ashli DeHoff Photography