A yearly ritual devised by a mother who either had perfect children or was a sadist with a plan to torture mothers for decades to come. The ritual I refer to? The Christmas portrait featuring your beautiful children, mailed to family and friends both near and far. Most people will display these adorable keepsakes around their home during the holiday season, but once the holidays end these precious cards find themselves in the bottom of the garbage can covered in pine needles and broken ornaments.

This year I implore all recipients of these portraits to read on and consider what goes on behind these little treasures before you toss them. Preparation begins in October as mothers everywhere begin to plan their holiday cards. The theme, the background, and the color coordinated outfits are the first order of business.

My first holiday photo depicted my naked son laying in a red stocking. Three years later I had my son and daughter kissing under mistletoe. Ah! Perfection.

Horror became the applicable description of this time honored tradition once my brood reached five. Try to comprehend the complexity of finding four dresses that are exactly the same in four different sizes. After shopping several stores you must resort to color coordinating your flock. Maybe red and white or silver and black .Once you have the outfits you must plan your background around two blondes, two brunettes, and one whose hair is in between. Your objective is to make each child stand out from their background while matching one another.

Climbing Everest would seem to be easier at this point, but you forge ahead.

Now onto booking your appointment. Mid November is optimal but can be tricky with school conferences, end of sports season and Thanksgiving. You must also remember to book your appointment when your children are well fed and rested. This is highly suggested to avoid mid session meltdowns.

Preparation requires hair combing and curling and perfectly matched bows and accessories. Nails must be cut and polished. Clothes ironed and placed onto your wiggly subjects who will instantly begin to complain that their clothes are too itchy, too tight, or ugly.

You arrive early for your session with reluctant children in tow, wipe the sweat from your brow, and check in hoping for the best. Of course the studio is running 15 minutes behind, which actually means forty minutes. You fake a smile as you see the other parents stiffly sitting in their chairs with clenched teeth telling their little darlings to stop arguing. You watch as the children squirm and wiggle and wrinkle their outfits. A chorus of whining fills the room as you try to model patience to your antsy children.

Finally it is your turn. Outfits are adjusted, hair coiffed with each child seated properly, the photographer is ready. One looks left, the baby crawls to the right. One refuses to smile. Desperately you fall to your knees begging and bribing, “Please sit still.” “Smile.” “Look this way” “Stop nudging your brother.” You offer them a trip to the Cheesecake Factory if they are good.“You want an IPad, ..sure.”

As a reward you get to look through a sea of pictures only to find one that is decent. You’re charged an outrageous fee for a production weeks in the making that barely meets your expectations. So please think twice before tossing your photo cards. Consider the mother who invested blood sweat and tears to deliver her angelic little babies to your home in the form of a Christmas portrait.

Happy Holidays!!

Patricia Geurds

My name is Patricia Geurds. I am a mother of five children ages thirteen, eleven, eight, five, and 22 months. The experiences I share with my children inspire my writing. Writing is my hobby, but also a therapeutic process on the challenging days that often accompanies motherhood. The memories we make are very special to me and I am excited to share them. Before becoming a mom, I was a second grade school teacher. I have self published the children’s story, “Bedtime for Percy.” I look forward to writing more children’s books and developing products to make learning more meaningful for young children.