Forced smiles, holding down a rebellious 4-year-old, emotionally scarred 3-year-old, fussy baby, football helmet, football, basketball, baseball, and skateboard all present in the ultimate JC Penny Photo shoot. This was the photo shoot from...
I recounted the exhausting events to my husband. His response, "You should never attempt those without me." True.
But I did. I was sure it'd go better this time. Our middle son was a whole year older. His 2-year-old shots were a disaster, but surely with his new found maturity he'd cooperate and smile for the camera. We'd been gearing up. The whole week he'd been excited and ready to smile. Cheese! I'd whip out my pretend camera; he'd whip out his great grin. My focus was him since my baby is a dream! He smiles at anyone, makes anyone feel like the Baby Whisperer. My oldest would do fine. He's getting to that "helpful" age. It would work. I could be the ultimate mom and get the ultimate commemorative shot of all three boys.
Timing was key. I needed my baby newly wakened and refreshed from a nap. This is tricky because we live about 30 minutes from Penny's. We left our house right after his morning nap. Now I needed to find a space to nurse. So I swung by a dear friend’s house for a quick pick-me-up. What could go wrong? We'd be fast. My middle son has recently been dubbed "The Messiest Boy in the World." So, I should not have been surprised when he found the tools he needed to decorate his shirt with stickers and food and rub blue Play-Doh into his gorgeous blond locks. I had brought an extra shirt, but had completely forgotten the comb. Plus, whenever I tried to remove the crusted blue from his head he screamed. I would have to let it go if I wanted to keep him happy and willing to smile. He was already pretty upset by having to change his shirt. He was starting to descend into his dark place.
My little nursing session took longer than anticipated, so we were running a bit late. I put on the mama pressure which never helps my kids cooperate but is what I resort to when I think something needs to get done quickly and done now.
In my frenzy of push-and-shove my baby arrived for his photo session without any pants. The black-clad JC Penny photographers looked at me with disgust: another disorganized, spacey mom to deal with...great.
Options? His brother's 4T shorts. Nice. Almost like capris. If we angled him just right, with a dark background, only the most perceptive would notice.
My middle was dive bombing into a spiral of rage. I should have left him in the nasty, sticker shirt. Mistake. He was down the dark path where there would be no smiles.
Our youngest must have sensed the tension because he decided that the photographer was not the Baby Whisperer and began to cry. His lower lip stuck out. We managed to get a few smiles. His photos turned out OK. He sucked in that lower lip and did some winners for us, but not as I'd imagined and hoped. I wanted the photographers to be so amazed at his cuteness that they would ask for permission to turn one of his shots into a huge 20X24 wall hanging for their studio!
We let the baby go first, hoping that my middle would cooperate after he saw how much fun it was. We finally pulled out a soccer ball. One smile. One with the ball on top of his head. We might have gotten more shots, but my oldest (a soccer fanatic) saw the ball and barreled in for the score! He raced into the photo room and kicked the ball with all his strength! Pow! Bam! He hit a camera light! There was a wrestling match. There was me. I was pulling boys off of boys and boys off of balls and boys off of me.
We tried to get some shots of all three. There was a couch...a nice, brown, leather couch. On that couch there was a wild monkey, scared mole, sleepy puppy, and one frustrated, stressed mama bear. I was in each shot. Not the plan, but the reality.
We tried it all. We shouted nasty words like poopy and bottom. (I usually get good laughs this way.) I bribed with ice cream. Threatened. Were there more balls? We discovered the prop closet..... helmet, skate board, and five other athletic balls were all in our fussy couch frame.
When I viewed the results, I could either buy the one where my middle looked daft, but I looked smokin' hot, or the one where I have a cheesy grin but at least all the boys are looking in the same direction and appear to have average IQ's. Being a mother is a constant reminder to die to self. I picked the one with the mama permagrin.
Exhausted I purchased some poses and asked, "On a scale from one to ten, ten being horrible, how would you rate my kids? Be honest."
The photographer replied with a little too much cheer, "Oh a 6. I've seen worse. At least your boys didn't hit or kick you."
Nice. I'm sure she really wanted to say an 8. And, she would have if she'd witnessed my oldest kicking me in the back of my legs when I insisted we were done riding the escalator.
Will it go any better next year? My middle will be four? But then my youngest might be entering the tantrum two's. My oldest might be too cool for it all. I'm definitely not going it alone. Daddy must experience the joys of picture day.