They Were Picture-Perfect

They sat on a sandy beach with a calm ocean behind them, deep blue reflecting a cloudless sky. They were picture-perfect.

Four girls and two boys. They wore khaki colored pants, bleach white shirts. They sat like seagull sentries guarding the sand — their parents, blonde haired and blue-eyed, proudly off to the side watching over them with possessive, proud eyes.

They were picture-perfect.

I sighed as I stared absently at the picture on my refrigerator, held on by a magnet from some unknown realtor.

Why Can’t We Look Like That? I grumbled silently.

When I pull out a family picture, people think I’ve pulled out a picture of the Ramones or a picture of a group of actors auditioning for an independent film. Why do some people have ‘it’ and we don’t? Furthermore, why do we have to fight every time we take a family picture? Why can’t WE be picture perfect?

There. I admitted it aloud. It was yet another area where I felt my background as a third culture kid and my insecurity as an adult came into play. I didn’t know how to do family pictures. One year when we had only three children we went to Sears to get a family picture taken. This was a big deal for me. The result? We got a picture with Micah’s head bowing toward the ground, all you could see was the baby fuzz on an otherwise bald head — so small was he, he couldn’t hold his head by himself.  When someone asked me why I had picked that one to blow up into an 8 by 11 inch portrait, I shrugged. “I don’t know” I said, shaking my head! “I guess it’s because Cliff and I looked good and we knew that our years of looking good were coming to an end.”

But it’s far more than any TCK insecurity. It’s about expectations and reality. It seemed that all of our family stuff would come out in pictures while other families were able to keep the pictures happy. I had expectations of these family pictures; expectations of this family, and they were not being met.

Expectations confuse reality. Expectations yield discontent. Expectations kill relationships.

That truth pounds in my ears.

Family pictures, beautiful as they are, mask much of what it means to be a family. The real story comes not through pictures, but through day by day life together. Those huge fights, that you think will never be redeemed? They bear the stamp of grace when forgiveness and restoration happens. The ordinary of life seen through laundry, dirty dishes, dust, and pans that need washing? That’s where patience and discipline grow.

There’s so much more to family pictures then the gloss and color; then how coordinated we are and how beautiful we look. No matter how picture-perfect in the studio, every family bears the marks of a broken world. And that’s why most families prefer the candid shots, sending those picture-perfect shots off to others.

As I pass by the refrigerator again – I look one more time at the picture-perfect family. Can I accept it for what it is? A beautiful picture of a lovely family — a family that has its own stuff, put aside for a day where beach waves, blue sky, khaki and white could work its magic with the help of a skilled photographer.

Because there’s no such thing as a picture-perfect family.

There's No Such Thing as a Picture-Perfect Family!..

A New Kind of Mommy Blog

The Myth of Perfect Parenting....

There are some great mommy blogs out in the blogosphere. There is My Baby Experience blog – A mother of one shares baby advice; the How To Mommy – Making Mom’s Life Easier One Post at a Time; there is even Mommy Adventures – a mom with two kids with her latest feature “Hannah Sings the ABC’s.  They are creative, show amazing pictures of picture-perfect children, feature moms who cook, moms who sew, moms who relay clever anecdotes about said children, and moms who make money off these stories. I am not being totally facetious…some of these blogs are remarkable. They are also a means for women to stay at home, while successfully creating a blogging business that helps support their families, and that is no small feat.

But what we need in addition to these blogs is a new kind of mommy blog. Something in the genre of Erma Bombeck. The blog that tells it like it is when those amazing and beautiful toddlers begin to dress themselves, pick their own friends and noses, say things like “you’re ruining my life!” and break their mommies hearts. Erma Bombeck is the mommy that said: “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.” and “When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he’s doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911.” and “Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.”

Once our kids get to a certain age, we are confronted with the fact that they aren’t perfect, nor are we, and it is a vulnerable position. We know in our heads that neither party ever was perfect, but the way we live belies that knowledge. When we get to those stages, the idea of publicly blogging some of our stories sends chills down my spine.

I call the stories from those toddler years the “Let me go, let me jump, let me hit my lip” stories, they are cute stories without far-reaching consequences.  But when the stories become “Let me go, Let me drink, let me hurt myself” or “Let me go, let me drop out of college” or “Let me go, let me fail calculus” (and the list goes on) we are suddenly in this place of “Who is this person and what have they done with my child?” Not so easy to share those stories.

But those are the stories that need to be shared. Those are the stories that show that God is faithful and big and good and in control. Every time we are willing to open up about what’s really going on with our kids – their hearts, their jobs, their struggles, we find that we are not alone. We recognize that just as we were seemingly hopeless once ourselves, sleeping on couches with minimum wage jobs, making choices that were questionable and had far-reaching consequences, so go our kids. And God did not abandon us. And God will not abandon them.

About a year ago I read an article called the “Myth of the Perfect Parent”. While I usually scan cynically over parenting articles this one was different. From the first paragraph and the authors’ description of being “in the muddy trenches of parenthood” she had me.  One of the points made in the article was that the question “Am I parenting successfully?” needs to be changed to “Am I parenting faithfully?” She goes on to say “Faithfulness, after all, is God’s highest requirement for us”. Changing that one word changes the inner dialogue that often sends accusations, and ‘should haves’ reverberating through the brain like sounds in an echo chamber. The question is no longer about success, a culturally based fleeting variable, and becomes about our relationship with, and dependence on, God.

So about the new kind of mommy blog – maybe a blog is not where these conversations and stories belong. But they do belong with friends we know and trust.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures! psalm 19:90

Check out this article – The Myth of Perfect Parenting and weigh in on the conversation!