Say Cheese

Angelyn Harrenstein's avatar

by Angelyn Harrenstein

Every summer we book a family photo session with our favorite local photographer.  

The session typically happens around the first week of October, and I spend way too much time trying to plan perfectly coordinated but not overly matchy-matchy outfits for each of us to wear. 

Why bother going to all of this work to take a picture that usually only ends up on our Christmas card that year? 

Because pictures capture a moment of time, a season of life, and as a mother I want that picture taken every year to treasure for a lifetime. 

Life can be unpredictable, even more so having a child with special needs, and that annual family photo is a reminder of our blessings. 

There may have been tears over mom making four-year-old wear tights, or an obscene amount of mosquitos in the grass we had to stand in front of to get that lush green look, but there we all stand, together.    

Family picture day does come with its share of hurdles for our family, and I thought these might resonate with your experiences as well. 

Hurdle #1: Finding poses that will work

As a result of the disease he has, our son is unable to sit up on his own.  Focusing his eyes can also be a challenge, and smiling comes and goes depending on the health season he is in at the time. 

So sitting him on a cute little blanket in the grass, asking him to smile and look at the camera to capture the perfect photo is not really an option.  I am mostly okay with that, and it requires us to get a little creative in finding poses that will work for family photos.  That might mean having our son sit in his wheelchair, or having our daughter hold him so he can be sitting up with help.    

Hurdle #2: Real vs. fake

This ties in slightly with hurdle #1. Do we use the wheelchair or not use the wheelchair?

Do we bring the tumbleforms chair or not? Do we cover the tumbleforms chair to disguise it or not? 

I want our family photos to look like us.  I do not want my son to be defined by his diagnosis, and I do not want it to appear in a photo as though we are embarrassed or ashamed of the fact that our son uses a wheelchair or special seating because he cannot sit up on his own. 

This has been a difficult thing for me to mull over in my mind for some reason, because taking this annual picture is more than smiling long enough to say “cheese.”

Hurdle #3: Sleepy child

Last year our son fell asleep as soon as we pulled up to the location of our outdoor photo session.  He could not be wakened.

  The kid was sound asleep.  We spent the first ten minutes there trying to wake him up. 

That failed, so the photographer started snapping photos.  I was plastering on a fake smile feeling so disappointed that this year’s family picture was going to contain a sleeping two-year-old. 

My heart wanted the perfect shot so it could be hung on our wall forever, but my son’s little body was tired and didn’t care that it was time to smile for the camera. 

The lesson learned is to schedule a slightly earlier time to take pictures so nobody is sleeping.  

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