It must be some kind of Good Mom Test. Otherwise, why would perfectly sane women put themselves through the kind of agonizing torture we call a family photo on the beach?
All week I’ve watched the exodus of little families staying at our hotel head out to the beach just before dinner. Moms have found matching dresses for the girls. Little boys are clad in carefully coordinated pastel Polos or crisp, check-y shirts. Sometimes a professional photographer joins them.
Then there is the grand family photo on the beach.Should be easy, right? Should be so simple to take the kind of happy family photo that shows up every day on Facebook.
This rarely happens.
The more perfect the family looks as they head for the beach, the more likely they are to have nuclear meltdown the moment that pinky perfect beach light hits their faces.
Previously cheerful babies develop delayed colic right there on the beach. Toddlers throw up. Brothers slam each other onto the sand. Sisters complain about their hair, the sun in their eyes, how someone is touching them.
Teenagers cross their arms and look like they are contemplating cooking meth on the hotel barbeque.
Dads adopt this patient, put-upon-slave look that shows the world that it wasn’t their idea to wear a linen shirt in public and that their masculinity is wilting.
Moms cajole, cheer, bribe, snap. “All I want is one moment when we look like other families,” I heard one mom hiss at her husband.
“Is that so much to ask??”No, Little Mom. No. It is not too much to ask.
I know I should rail against this vainglorious need to appear to be a perfect family on Facebook. As my mother reminds me, your friends don’t really care. Your enemies won’t believe you. And your kids know better.
But I won’t criticize moms. Because I’m one of those moms who craves a family photo every year. We don’t all need to wear white or look flawless. I just want all of us captured in a frame exactly the way we are right now (even if the way we are now is in the middle of deployment.)
Because I can’t help but see how this is all passing by so quickly. That's how we moms are made. I know that the 12-month size the baby is wearing today will be an 12-year-old size next week and Forever 21 the day after that.
I know the boy throwing his brother in the sand will be the 13-year-old who picks me up to show me how strong he is and the 20-year-old who sends me a picture of himself in a uniform with a lethal weapon.
Because this is the Good Mom Test.Can't the rest of the family see that we are all here together for such a short time? That growing kids means going kids?
I just want to capture five of us in a frame for just a moment. Because these are the pictures I know I will save. Among the thousands of pictures I have of my family members, I know that when I am a very old lady in a nursing home I will have these pictures on a wall near my bed.
Just like my own grandmothers, I will close my eyes at night looking at pictures when everyone was little, when everything was simple, when we were all together long, long ago.
So stand still, won’t you? Uncross your arms. Let the beach light fall on your beautiful face. And smile at the camera like you are wishing me goodnight.