Sometimes I look at these photos and start to worry that we aren't doing enough, then I stop and remember that I actually know the people in these photos and for every Christmas card quality photo they post, there was probably at least one child meltdown or sibling battle that wasn't documented for mass consumption. I can pretty safely assume the trip to the ballet was preceded by a long period of maternal nagging to brush hair or put on shoes and there is a good chance there was a fair amount of cussing as the family, immortalized as perfect in the photo, cruised the parking lot looking for a place to stow the car in time to rush to the performance before the curtain went up. This smiling child on skis was probably up at the crack of dawn disturbing the parents' slumber long before any sane person is ready to rise and possibly refused to eat any of the breakfast that they requested but then rejected because the edges of the pancakes were too brown or the egg yolks were too runny.
As deceptive as the photos can be, there are no perfect families. Trust me. That revelation is liberating. As soon as I let that go, I can more easily appreciate the oddness and chaos of my own kith and kin. We may have some photo perfect moments, but those are frequently surrounded by Little Dog decorating his body with bold designs drawn in marker probably predicting some future disposition to tattoos. The best smiles in our snapshots were often achieved not by saying "cheese" but "underpants," the word that seems to constantly amuse these little men. There is no trip to the ballet for our boys, yet, but the exuberant dancing to grandpa's choice of Christmas music is really more our speed, even if we are told "Don't look at us!"as soon as we start watching the performance, (but we do, just more covertly).
Some of our best family bonding may be centered around the new batch of apps grandpa downloaded for the boys, including the one that makes giant fart noises that were followed by the squealing laughter of my small monsters. We may not have made holiday cookies, but the boys did have some sort of competitive crafting event going in the kitchen at grandma's house. Each time a family member was given a finished item from one boy, the other would rush back to the work table to furiously create another item for the same person. By the end of the first evening, I was the proud owner of about a half dozen book marks and a small zoo of pom pom animals with a varying number of eyes.
We have Santa photos, but how many other families have the special holiday memory of their 5 year-old poking Santa's belly to "see how jolly he was". Well we do. And trust me, I'll cherish that memory for years to come, even is Santa was somewhat less enthusiastic about the event. We'll also remember Big Dog's impassioned lobbying that perhaps this year, instead of opening presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, we could open all of the presents on Christmas Eve morning. Though he was unsuccessful in attaining his goal, we may well have a future lawyer on our hands. Let's just hope he uses his powers for good, not evil.
We'll weather the sibling battles, the potty talk, the occasional yelling and in the end the memories that float to the top, the ones that persist, will be nearly as picture perfect as those in my Facebook feed.