My Picture-Perfect Kids

6.4.07: Because 3,000 digital photos just isn't enough


The other day, we endured the Great Battle of the Bath, where Julia practically pleaded for her life as Will and I made lame attempts to get soap and water into her hair. Then, there was the World-War-Three-year-old-won't-get-dressed stare-down, followed by the cursory application of the apparent-Medieval-torture-device that is our hairbrush. Then, Charlie's turn -- bath, diaper, clean outfit, spit up all over clean outfit, new clean outfit.

The reason for cleaning up our act? Posterity. We had an appointment at the portrait studio at the local mall. We've done this at regular intervals with Julia—at six months, at one year, at two years—and we've come home with some surprisingly great photos. I love these photos, if only for the fact that my thumb's not covering someone's face, or that our dirty dishes aren't piled up in the background, or that Julia's eyes actually look blue rather than red. We carry these photos around in our wallets. We hand them out to grandparents. We frame them on our walls and on our desks at work. I imagine that, someday, I will be that parent who pulls them all out in a tedious display for a prom date or two. Here's Julia's at six months, where she all but made love to the camera.

This would have been Charlie's six month photo, and Julia's three-year photo. I say would have been because it didn't actually happen. Here's what did happen: when we arrived, everyone still miraculously clean and dressed, Julia clung to Will's neck like a koala bear on steroids. Her little legs wrapped around his waist so tightly, you couldn't have pried her loose with an oyster shucker. It was as if she thought the photographer would steal her soul with a click of the shutter. We tried every trick in our repertoire to get her to sit and smile for the camera: distraction (Hey, look—a turkey!), reverse psychology ("Oh, we forgot, Julia doesn't know how to smile."), a little strong-arming ("Come on, Julia. I'm going to count to three. One...Two...Three (damn)...") and our old standby, The Bribe ("Julia, we'll get a chocolate chip cookie after if you can just sit here once and smile for the nice lady.") All the while, the harried photographer was eyeing the crowd milling around her waiting area and fake-smiling a "Maybe we're just not going to get Julia's picture taken today," while I gritted my teeth and fake-smiled back: "Yes, we are going to get Julia's picture taken today."

I know I was being completely ridiculous in an obnoxious, control-freaky, Desperate Housewives' Bree Van De Kamp kind of way. It's just that it was so much work getting these two kids ready. To have them both relatively rested, fed, cleaned up and dressed up at the same time seemed like the real hurdle to me. I wasn't about to give up just when we were on the homestretch—after we'd come so far. Was it so much to ask to get a couple nice photos of these kids together while they're still young?

Will finally talked me down from my photo-frenzy: “You win some, and you lose some," he shrugged. Yes, it seems you can lead a horse to water, but you really can't make a 3-year-old do something she doesn't want to do. We hurriedly took a few photos of a very-compliant Charlie, and were promptly ushered out of the studio. Minutes later, Julia was happily chitter-chattering away over a slice of pizza at the food court, her photo-phobia a distant memory, while I was still sighing into my root beer at the utter futility of it all. At my sheer impotence in handling the situation. At my near-obsessive need to try to capture these fleeting baby moments before they're gone.

I'm not giving up on those photos. I'll be going back to the portrait studio. Except, this time, I think I might try to bring my actual children with me: Charlie, with his hair all greasy, because I've doused his head in mineral oil in an attempt to finally rid him of the cradle cap that is taking over his skull. He'll have yellow goop coming out of his eye, thanks to a blocked tear duct, and some spit-up will be dribbling down his chin. He'll probably wear green beans and squash, his onesie wet with drool. Julia will have a smudgy face with some cakey boogers encrusting her nose, which she'll probably be working diligently to pull off and eat. Her hair will be a snarly nest of curls, because her bath got pushed off yet again, and even though I brushed her hair for the five seconds that I could get her to sit still, it still looks like it hasn't seen a brush in...well...ever. She'll wear spaghetti sauce around her mouth and Curious George Band-Aids on each knee and elbow, with some blue Play-Doh stashed under her fingernails. It would be the perfect picture of these two -- my kids. My real kids. My picture-perfect kids.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 6.11.07: A Big, Bouncy House