Let me say, first of all, this endeavor took place over the course of two visits to the portrait studio. The first time, last Friday, I abruptly ended the photo session halfway through. The photographer was impatient with my children, snapped her fingers and her voice at me, and proceeded to make Tucker cry instead of smile. I will be the first to say it's nearly impossible to make him smile if he's not in the mood, but the best route is never to shove a toy in his face and then jerk it away. He lost interest in that trick, oh, about two years ago. When she actually threatened him, that was the last straw for me. I stopped the session, and I didn't even look at any of the pictures she took. I left without buying anything, and I was made a phone call to their management later that afternoon, relaying every detail of this negative experience.
The manager was appropriately appalled. She said I was not the first to complain, and she asked me to please give them a chance to rectify the situation. Sure, if she would promise to give me a photographer who had more experience with small children, and if she would give me additional photo sheets for my time and hassle. She agreed to personally take the pictures of my children, and thus we had a deal.
And so we returned, this morning at 11:00.
Let me just say, my kids looked adorable. They were wearing matching outfits: white button-down shirts, red vests and ties, black dress pants, and get this: black patent leather shoes. They were two handsome little men.
I was determined to make this a positive experience. I gave Tuck a pep talk in the car, reminding him that we were going to take some pictures, and he was going to smile and obey Mommy. (Positive self-talk is very powerful, and since he can't talk, I gave the motivational speech on his behalf.)
I prayed all the way there, between pep talks and rounds of Old McDonald. I asked God to grant me wisdom and patience in the portrait studio, an otherwise very stressful environment for the mother of any toddler. The Lord heard my cry, He granted me the necessary skills, and He also reminded me of the small bag of m&ms in my purse.
Wisdom and patience can go a long way, but let's keep it real: never underestimate the power of bribery.
If I said it once, I said it 25 times during the photo session, "Tucker, can you smile for the camera? Mommy gives treats to little boys who smile so nicely."
Yep, that's right. I bribed my son to sit still and smile nicely. I bribed him to sit still, to stand straight, to hold his brother, to lay on his tummy, to smile, smile, smile... you name it, I gave him an m&m for it. You bet I did.
Go ahead: add it to The List of Things I Swore I'd Never Do. The List is growing increasingly longer.
The morning was not without mishaps, including Tyler's fall from his brother's lap. He took a nose dive onto the white sheet. There was blood, although I don't know where it came from and it didn't last long. There were tears, although they stopped when I gave him his pacifier and a some snuggles. Soon, he was up for more pictures. He was a trooper, especially for a boy who can't reliably sit up yet.
Amanda, the manager, did a great job from beginning to end. She greeted Tucker with a high five, she let him hold her camera, and she did all the right things to get some smiles. (I even heard her chime in to offer him a "treat" from mommy's purse. You do what you have to do, people.) He sure made her work for them, but the end results were just terrific. I am hopeful we won't always have to keep the m&ms on hand for family portraits, but I'm not above it.
In years to come, I will look at these pictures of my precious little guys, and I will forget the challenges of the day. I will think of how charming they look in their red vests and ties, and I will wish I could cuddle them and their sweet, smiling cheeks. I will have forgotten the little moments that will inevitably get lost in the magnitude of days, and I will lose sight of what it was really like.
So, lest I never forget, this is what I have written on the back of one picture:
On this day, December 3, 2007, we took the boys' pictures, and it was no easy task. I resorted to giving Tucker bites of chocolate to keep him engaged and smiling, and Tyler toppled over on his face, drawing blood and tears. It was quite a day.
But the pictures are well worth it, and so are these sweet little boys.