Christmas Cards and Reality

I haven’t sent out Christmas cards yet. There was a point last week that I had convinced myself not to do them this year; we really have no extra money and *newsflash* it’s really difficult to get a good picture of a disabled three year old who has lost most of his head control and a squirmy 10 month old who has  more interest in trying to grab (and probably break) my camera than take a decent picture with her brother.

Not that I didn’t try. And try again. And try a third time. I guess it’s no wonder I decided to forget about it this year.

But then I was sad at the thought of no Christmas card for my daughter’s first Christmas, and I do have two decent separate pictures of the kids. So today I’m scrambling to get them ordered.

Our life is good, but far from perfect. And I know that, and everyone else knows that. So why do I feel the need to send out a cleaned up/glossed over snapshot of my life on cardstock every December? What am I trying to say?

There are definitely moments of every day that are chaotic. We have some unique challenges and obstacles that most people don’t contend with that tend to add to that chaos. But my reality is this: most of the day we are ok. For the majority of the day, most days, no one is screaming or hurt. So why can’t we take Christmas card pictures that show the “ordinary” good of every day?

If I was really being “real”, out of all the pictures I attempted, this is the one I would probably put on our card. When I picture our good days in my mind, this is what that looks like.

These are my kids, my life. Charlotte: happy to be in the spotlight, always wanting something in her hands. mischievous and busy.  Grayson: sweetest boy ever, happy to be with his people and his music, but physically, not able to control his body.

But no, I can’t use this picture! I can’t have Charlotte holding a toy lobster and my camera lens cap on my Christmas card! Grayson has to hold his head up for 2 seconds so I can get him looking “normal”. And oh, I’ve got to get his arms out of the picture, because that’s not cute when they’re held like that.

But this picture is cute. And it is very much my life, much of the time.

But why do I care so much that Grayson look normal on our Christmas card? I was texting my friend during naptime and asked this very question, and in her wisdom she replied, “…because you wish he was”.

Ouch. But true.

But I guess that’s what everyone does with holiday cards, pictures on facebook and on their blogs- we present our lives to others (and sometimes ourselves) as we wish it could really be. And it works sometimes. I open beautiful cards with perfectly dressed children who are perfectly posed and think, wow, what an amazing life they have. How do they do that, is it real? How do they have it all together?

Because I sure don’t.

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13 thoughts on “Christmas Cards and Reality

  1. Very well written and all so true. I've really learned that everyone is struggling somehow, but no one is going to put that on their card. We take 182 pictures so we can present that one of our family dressed to the nines and happy! Part of me does that bc the card is the only thing ppl see about my family all year, and I want them to love what they see and think I've got my act together.

  2. ugh we haven't even attempted this yet… but I hear what you are saying- making everything perfect seems somehow easeier than explaining the complexities of why the behind the scenes may not be …well, quite picture perfect! Big hugs- your children are beautiful no matter what and I am thinking 2014 is the year of transparency- huh? 😉

  3. We haven't even attempted a family pic in many many years ! 🙂 I know most of my friends spend weeks trying to get the perfect shot, not the shot that reflects their family- who is perfect anyway? I think your picture is honest, and loving and wonderful. Grayson and Charlotte are very lucky to have you for a Mom.

  4. I actually heavily photoshop my Christmas cards – I put them on cartoony backgrounds, so it's very obvious that no, our lives are not perfect, but I can gloss them up to be if you want me to, but you'll know I'm glossing.

    This is the first year I didn't. That I captured a picture of all 3 boys together in which none of them looked inherently bad (you know, eyes closed, sneezing, snot dripping from his nose) – and I went with it. Is it perfect? Nope. Are they all smiling? Nope. But they look like they don't hate each other, or me, or the process. They look … real.

    Your picture is beautiful *because* it is real. Save it, frame it, treasure it.

  5. “we present our lives to others (and sometimes ourselves) as we wish it could really be” … yep yep yep.
    I like andmom's comment about the picture being beautiful BECAUSE it is real. So true.

  6. This is such a wonderful post. As you know I've written about this before, not specifically about holiday cards but about the photos we post in general and how they don't present an honest account of our lives. The holiday card is especially guilty of this, but at least everyone knows it's a farce. That makes me it better some how.

    I sent out one of those holiday cards where everyone looks perfect. Of course our lives are not perfect. In fact, the day we took those pictures was not perfect (far, far from it) and even negotiating access to those photos was a shit show (long, boring story) so not only are holiday cards not an accurate representation of our lives, they may not be an accurate representation of the moment when they were taken. Of course they aren't supposed to be. They are supposed to be exactly what you said: a representation of what we want our lives to be. I suppose that is what all photos on social media are showing.

    The photo you shared above is beautiful for its honesty. But I'm sure you already know that.

  7. This is your best post. I love you for your honesty, your heart, and your love for your children.

    We ALL want that perfect Christmas card picture. My mom said just the other day that she came across a printed roll of film from 22 years ago when we attempted that PERFECT family photo. She said she remembered each photo not being good enough at the time, but today, couldn't find anything wrong with any of those rejected photos. So telling, isn't it?

    Everyone knows that no one's life is perfect, but I think we'd like to believe that for that moment when our card is opened, that our photo takes the reader's breath away right before they think to themselves, “great photo… I wonder how hard it was getting that one.”. Ha!

    Our Christmas photo 2 years ago was perfection. The photo has been used over and over in advertising since it was taken. I opted for a collage card that year and put an “outtake” from the session in the collage so that everyone could get a laugh at the work that went into that perfect shot. I like to keep it real. I'm also that mom who pays $20 for the professional shot of her kid crying. Ha ha!

    I love seeing both realities of peoples lives – the ones they want me to believe are their realities, and the ones we all know are their real realities.

    I love your photo. I love the reality you present us with all the time. And I love your honesty.

    Hugs and love to you all!

  8. We tried to take pictures with our kids and the three horses this year. The horses were the easy part. I put their 3 adorable Christmas hats on them and then tied them to the back of an outdoor couch. The kids were monsters. Graham decided he didn't like the horses at that moment and Paisley wouldn't put her legs down and stop showing her underwear. When I begged her to act nice for the picture, she decided to cry then rip her bow out. At this point, the horses decide they don't want to stand that close and start nipping at each other. Needless to say, we aren't doing cards this year. 🙂

  9. Your a wise mama! Your wisdom will free you to enjoy your children for who they truly are as God's children! I think I will get an Elizabeth is a “REAL” mom shirt made and start your fan club! You ROCK! Thanks for sharing yourself.

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