Come December 1st, the holiday cards will start rolling in. Some families are very organized and have their cards prepared and ready to mail right after Thanksgiving. Others are racing to get them in before the holidays come and go. And some will send “Happy New Year” cards instead. They’re the smart ones, if you ask me.
Regardless of when the cards arrive, I love each and every one of them. I love looking at the pictures and seeing how the kids and families have grown in the past year. I love taping them up on the bookshelf so we can all stop to enjoy them each day. And I love running to the mailbox to see which cute faces will be smiling back at me on any given day. I love holiday card season.
I even love creating our holiday card, a task that leaves many stressed and pressed for time. I enjoy looking back at the pictures taken throughout the year, trying to find the two or three that best represent our kids. The silly faces, the hugs and kisses, and mid-air shots of them jumping from something…because jumping is what they spend most of their time doing. All of these shots cause me to stop and think about all of the good that happened over the past year. The not-so-good days seem like a distant memory when you have so much good staring back at you. It warms my heart and soothes my soul.
But that’s not the only reason holiday card stress doesn’t get the best of me. Here’s the real secret behind my holiday card success: I gave up on perfection long ago. I no longer worry about having the perfect picture where everyone looks and everyone smiles. Sure, I sometimes crave an updated family photo for the living room wall. Like most moms, I want to preserve each moment and have a wall full of memories that represents each year of this journey.
But for my holiday card? I want the truth. I want to share the small moments that make up our daily lives. The silly faces, the soccer games, and the bug collections…I want to share my kids with my friends. The ones who only wear shirts with cars on them and outfits that you would never dream of putting together, unless you were a fashion forward four year old girl. I want to share our daily lives.
I must admit that I had a moment where I thought we might actually take a family picture at Thanksgiving this year. My son was in his favorite fire truck shirt, my husband and I were dressed up, and our daughter had chosen “the perfect celebration outfit”. We would have done it, celebration outfit and all, if not for one small glitch. The kids spent the holiday racing around after their cousins, eating with the “big kids”, and exploring new toys. They had so much fun that I just didn’t have it in me to stop the action for the sake of a family picture. We focused on fun, enjoyed our dinner, and left before the meltdowns started. And it was wonderful.
The very next morning I opened my laptop and reviewed our year in pictures. I laughed, I cried, and I enjoyed every second of it. And then I created our holiday card.
It doesn’t include matching outfits or choreographed poses. It doesn’t include anyone attempting to yell “cheese” while smiling through clenched teeth. It includes one shot of each kid and one of them together…and it is beautiful.
Do you prefer formal pictures or candid shots for your holiday cards?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can also be found on Twitter.