I raced through rush hour traffic on my way across town; 80% confident, 20% apprehensive. I was on my way to my most important photo shoot of the season. This time I was not only in charge of capturing good lighting, backgrounds,smiles and expressions, but making sure clothes stayed clean, hair stayed in place, noses remained dry, and attention spans lasted. These were my very own littles. And I had in my head the perfect vision of the perfect shot of my two innocent angels for our Christmas card, and another adding my cute little niece for a perfect holiday gift for my in laws. How hard can it be, with three adults to get ONE perfect shot of three toddlers? I am a pro at this, right? And certainly, I know how to control my own two children better than anyone else's.
I heard my own voice in my head telling every parent of every toddler I've taken pictures of this year: "Everyone says taking pictures of toddlers is the most difficult, but I think it's the easiest! I learned how to take pictures while practicing on my own toddlers. It never bothers me when they are cranky, refuse to look at the camera, or run around instead of sitting still. If you are just willing to wait a toddler out, you will always come up with something amazing. Because toddlers are real. They don't pose, they aren't stiff. Everything you capture on camera is real."
If you have read my intro blog post, you'll know that is my motto for photography. I don't believe in doing a lot of photoshopping. I love to use my editing software to enhance colors and tones, but most of the time, I leave the rest as is. I want your photos to reflect real life. I want photos to be remembrances of the beauty of how those moments really looked. I believe that is the most beautiful form of art; capturing our imperfect realities in a way that helps us to realize their overwhelming beauty.
Fast forward an hour and a half. I am now driving home through worse rush hour traffic. My one year old is screaming, mad that we are not home having dinner yet. My two year old is in the back seat continuously saying, "Mommy I want to go home." Despite the fact that I was trying to remember he is two, so I wouldn't kill him for refusing to smile through all 500 pictures I took, I thought it was a sweet moment. Then he started saying, "I want to go home and eat candy. You promised me." Yes, it's true, I had promised him candy if he would smile. And for about 10 of the 500 pictures, he did smile. Just in time for his sister and cousin to start pitching major tantrums, because by then, we were on picture 355.
We spent an hour and a half, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I, jumping, laughing, screaming, clapping, picking kids up and plopping them back into place, pleading, bribing, and attracting the attention of everyone around us. Oh how I wished my busy med student husband could be there to help me. He always fixed everything when I couldn't. And he could always make the kids smile. But he wasn't, so we did our best with the three of us. And at the end of the day, I pulled up all 500 pictures on my computer, tired and frustrated at what I thought was a failed attempt, and realized what I already knew. There was not a single, perfect picture out of the whole lot. There was not a single one where someone wasn't crying, screaming, sticking their hands in their mouth, eating weeds, looking in the wrong direction, crawling or running away, or making scowling faces instead of smiles just because he's two and he doesn't like to do what he's told at inconvenient times.
And then, I remembered. They are one, and they are two. They are them. They are real. They are perfect. They are beautiful. They are mine.
I succeeded. There is more beauty in these little imperfect snapshots than I have seen anywhere in the world.
How I love and adore these perfect, sweet, darling, REAL little people, just how they are in these images, just how they will always be in my memory, just who they are today.
Merry, Merry Christmas. May all of your realities be joyful and beautiful.