awkward family photos

This year I’ve earned a bit of a reputation as a prankster. I won’t incriminate myself too badly here…but one of my milder but still fantastic pranks involves going to Finding the most awful pictures that I can, slipping them into frames and placing them strategically around people’s office or classroom. It is a good joke every time. The more ridiculous the picture the better.

I’ve mentioned this before.
That I know that I love my kids well,
But I often doubt that I parent well.

We watch more cartoons that we should. I go through the drive thru. I occasionally use language I shouldn’t. I’m late to soccer practice. I don’t know what to do when he keeps getting in trouble at school. I let them stay up too late. My car is a disaster zone of coffee cups, juice boxes, extra clothes and fruit snacks embedded into the seat. My kids sing along to the Beastie Boys. Sometimes we eat around the table, but sometimes we eat in the car. And sometimes we say our prayers and read a story at night and sometimes we fall asleep watching TV. And I'm not always hard on myself. I do plenty right.
It usually seems like all those other moms have it way more together than me.
They know how to work the pick up line at school. Their kid’s outfits always match. They serve a vegetable with every meal. And their kids don’t even know what a twinkie is.

I know better. I do. I know that things are rarely what they appear. But I still sometimes imagine them following a routine perfectly, doing family devotionals in their clean houses and cars. But still, more often than not, I imagine most other people doing it better than me.
My church was offering a parenting class. And I wanted to go. But I didn’t. I’ve read plenty of books. I’ve sought of advice from friends. But I still don’t always know what to do.With the little stuff. Like homework and allowance. And talking to my kids about God. Sometimes I feel like I am not making any sense. I mean, really, try explaining Easter or prayer or communion to a 5 year old. It is some pretty weird stuff.
I wanted to go. I know that this is an important gig. One, I don’t want to screw up.
But I didn’t want to go sit in a roomful of people pretending to do it right. Who are most likely doing it better than me. And listening to someone tell me about all the stuff I am supposed to be doing. And just feel worse.

But. Instead. She put up a family picture. A really cute one of her, her husband and her kids. Let everyone ooh and ahh for a bit. Then said,
Let me tell you what was really going on in this picture.
Let me tell you what kind of mess I really am.

And she didn’t stop there. She put up picture after family pictures of well known people in our church. People who are on staff. Ministers. Volunteers. Teachers. And one by one told us about their mess.

And again. I know this. I know that people aren’t usually what they appear. Life isn’t always as peachy as the Christmas card. But it was so refreshing. In this place where people usually spend their most effort pretending, putting on their Sunday best. To see picture after picture of messes like me.

And then she started in with a few more familiar families.
David’s. Noah’s. Abraham’s. Joseph’s.
All messes.

There isn’t a single picture perfect Christmas card family in the bunch. Mainly a bunch of awkward family photos. Because maybe God isn’t into pretending or impressing and the people who uses never get it all right. They are mess after mess, being used to tell His story. Not a story of how to do it right or at least look like you do. But a story of love and forgiveness and redemption.


tina said...

Hilarious and beautifully written! I love it! Thank you for sharing.

John said...

Girl, my kid has been a mess all week. Now he looked cute and he matched, but once we were home this week, it was crying, tantrums, throwing stuff. You name it. When I mentioned that at work today, everyone sat looking at me like I was crazy to LET my 3-year-old act like that. Made me feel awful. Also made me feel like I will only be sharing the wonderful things at lunch from now on. From now on, I will only say that i fixed a balanced dinner (which everyone ate), read books instead of watched Scooby, exercised as a family and prayed. And it will all be a big fat lie.

samskat said...

Me too. I'm just certain that everyone else does it better than me. And my kid does match, but I carry a cache of candy in my purse so that when we're at Target, I can bribe my well matched kid into for dinner, pickles count as a veggie, right????