A couple weeks ago I booked a family portrait session with our wedding photographer, Assaf Friedman.
I’ve had professional photos of my kids taken every year since they were babies. I look on my wall and see photos of them just weeks old. There are photos of them growing up together. There used to be photos of the four of us when I was married, but those were quickly replaced by a series of me and my kids after our divorce.
This time was special: next year when my fiancé and I blend families, my party of three will become a party of five. This was the first time we’d be taking our portrait together.
I thought it would be nice to meet our wedding photographer and take more casual photos of the five of us that we can hang on our walls in the home we will one day share together.
I had my hair and makeup done for the occasion. I chose coordinating outfits for the kids. Everything was arranged and scheduled with the photographer. I’d even given my kids a special talk about how important these photos are for me and how much I’d appreciate it if they could cooperate.
As you probably know, kids don’t typically like to be told what to do. They can’t sit still for a photographer. It’s more fun to make silly faces and run away. At least that’s my boys’ experience with photographers.
I knew Assaf would have his work cut out for him, but still, I hoped for the best.
A few minutes after our session started, it quickly became apparent that having their photos taken would be a game of hide-and-seek. At times, it was tag. My kids ran around, stuffed chocolate in their mouths, rolled on the grass in their white shirts. At one point, as my step-daughter sat nicely on a picnic bench smiling for the camera, my kids stood on top of the table swinging their shirts around and around over their heads like helicopters. They had great fun, and the photographer was a good sport, laughing at their antics when I was sure he was grimacing on the inside.
Unfortunately for the kids, my fiancé and I weren’t too pleased. Their wild ways made the photo session difficult, frustrating and exhausting for us parents, not to mention much longer than it needed to be.
When we were done, I gave my kids a big lecture and let them know how disappointed I was in their behaviour. They apologized and I knew by their downcast eyes that they felt badly.
I had no hope whatsoever that the photos would turn out ok. At that point, I’d have been happy with one nice portrait of me and my fiancé. Then I remembered the shots in which one of my kids kept popping up behind us in an attempt to photobomb our pictures. My heart sank. Who was I kidding? There was no hope at all.
When I got the link to the photos from the photographer, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was walking home from dropping my kids off at school. When I saw the link in my inbox, I downloaded them on the spot. The slideshow played as I walked home and I smiled the whole way, bigger and bigger until my cheeks were stiff with happiness. The pictures were amazing—especially the ones with my kids swinging their shirts over their heads. Their personalities really emerged. Their smiles were bright. The three kids look like they’re having a blast as The Three Amigos.
Our arms are around each other, we’re standing close together, we’re all smiling. We look like a happy family having a fun day. Nobody would know we were blending and that this was the very first time we’d appeared together in a picture.
I wonder now if I was hard on my kids. Maybe half the fun of having family portraits is to have a story or memory behind each image. Maybe the glee of not behaving perfectly is what makes these pictures so fun and full of life. Or maybe the photographer is a magician.
These photos will always be special to me for many different reasons. I will remember how rambunctious my kids were at this age; I will remember how delighted we were to see our kids enjoying one another’s company. I will remember the moment we became a family of five.
Maybe this was it.