Parents: gather ’round. Soon we will be confronting one of life’s most challenging stresses - the family holiday photo.
Parents: gather ’round. Soon we will be confronting one of life’s most challenging stresses.
No, I’m not talking about the high cost of college or teaching your kid to drive or even finding underwear in your dryer that doesn’t belong to anyone in the family.
I’m talking about taking the holiday photo when (gulp) teens are involved.
Do you need a minute? Yes, sure, I understand. I, too, need to pick myself up off the floor. Just saying the words out loud — “holiday photo with teens” — makes my tongue curl backward like the witch’s shoes in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Back when the kiddies were young and malleable and receptive to wearing reindeer antlers, it used to be fun, didn’t it? You’d say “Smile!” and they would actually show some teeth. But these days, good grief, you say “Smile!” and you get a scowl that could transmit rabies.
Ironically, years down the road, when your teens are finally seeing you for who you really are — a caring parent whose intentions are good, not evil! — they will appreciate the efforts you made to capture the family year after year. But those years are far, far away. Right now, all your teens see is a wicked shrew behind the camera, an ogre who clearly wants to destroy their right to “chill” for hours on end.
What’s a parent to do? I’m glad you asked, because as the designated family photographer, I have developed tricks of the trade that would make George Eastman proud.
Tip One: Develop a stiff upper lip.
Several weeks before you plan to take your holiday picture, you need to develop a hide as calloused as a mall-Santa’s knee.Otherwise, the moment your teens sling that first nasty arrow, you will crumple like spent garland. Me? In the weeks prior, I conjure up times that always make me cry and then envision myself not crying during those harsh times.
For instance, I always weep when our credit-card bill arrives and, despite my best efforts to cut corners, is greater than ever. And I usually blubber when I find myself in a checkout lane behind someone who clearly has the flu. And missing out on a two-for-one Hanes sale? Don’t get me started.
My point is: You can’t go into this picture-taking ordeal all weak and wobbly. You must be able to withstand the “I hate you” and “You’re ruining my life” comments that are bound to come your way. If not, your teens will bolt after one shot — and you can’t have that. Heck no. You need to take at least a dozen shots to get one decent one. A dozen! Which brings me to my next tip …
Tip Two: Use bribes and threats.
OK, you’ve taken a few pictures, and you sense the opposition is restless. How do you get the ingrates to stay? I suggest you start off with bribes first. Mustering your most authoritative voice, you might say, “Give me 10 more shots and I’ll buy you a pizza.” If they don’t bite, I advise you to move quickly into phase two: threats. Again, using a voice full of bravado, you might say, “Give me 10 more shots or I’ll dance in front of your friends.” The only problem with threats, though, is that you lose any chance of a smile. Which brings me to my final tip …
Tip Three: Lower your expectations.
Ah, so what if your teens are snarling like wild dogs — they’re in the same frame, aren’t they? Fully clothed and standing? Not serving time in San Quentin? I say: Good enough!
Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.