Family portraits - and felonies

We just got our family pictures done. It's the first formal portrait we've had taken since Ryan was born two years ago.

As the photographer posed us, I tried not to think of everything at stake. This was the picture for posterity, the one that would hang on the wall of our family room for decades to come. It's the picture our kids would remember hanging in the house through their childhoods, the one they'd most likely fight over after we died. It would be pulled out by family members far into the future as a looking glass into their past.

So we'd better make it good.

I booked the appointment for after Ryan's naptime, when he was most likely to be in his happy mode. I planned our attire for two days so that we'd all match, just like all those families in the brochure. After scanning my woeful post-working woman wardrobe, I made an emergency shopping run to Foley's department store for a lovely cream-colored sweater for my matriarchal modeling session.

Visions of our historically significant portrait wavered as we readied for our journey to the studio. Napless Ryan was a blubbering mess. Kyle staged a teary mutiny over a time-out. Remembering my mascara, I kept my lunatic mama imitation in check.

Donning my lovely new sweater, I felt a suspicious digging in my right side. The anti-theft ink tag was still attached to the sweater. I took a deep breath and tried not to hyperventilate. There was no time for a last-minute ink-tag removal trip. I pocketed my Foley's receipt so the people at the photo studio wouldn't think I was some kind of larcenist.

The photographer was all smiles and reassurances. Everything's going to be fine. The tag won't be in the pictures. I promise.

This picture's going to be great. It's going to be just beautiful. We're going to come out looking like all those people in the brochure. Relax. Take a deep breath. And smile.

We got the pictures back today. We look like four deer caught in headlights. And the ink tag on my cream-colored sweater is so visible you can read the word WARNING in bright red letters.

The studio offered to reschedule. We declined. No matter when we take the pictures, life is going to intrude.

We'll hang the portrait in our family room. Maybe future generations will marvel at our non-photogenic clan. Maybe the red WARNING tag will cause our grandchildren to wonder if their grandma was a felon.

Maybe posterity ain't pretty. But it definitely gives people something to talk about.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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