Throw Away the Holiday Perfection Checklist

The holidays are fast approaching and there’s a checklist you’ll need to follow to allow others to realize you’re the perfect family. Must-Haves:

  • Seasonally appropriate table scape
  • Fall scented candles followed by Christmas scented candles burning at all hours
  • Large pots of soup continuously simmering on the stove (containing fully organic ingredients if you want full points)
  • Timely changeover of holiday decor (both indoors and outdoors)
  • The perfect holiday greeting card, postmarked by December 1st, representing the perfect family, which brings me to a sub-checklist:
    • Fully coordinating outfits
    • Perfect hair on all family members, perfect makeup for mom
    • Seasonally magical background (leaves or snow falling gently)
    • Photos taken from angles that show everyone’s good side and make mom look 10-15 lbs. lighter 
    • All family members are laughing at best, jovial at worst, but preferably smiling with teeth
    • Not one person should look stressed or sick or show any signs of 2020 fatigue (WE’RE FINE! EVERYONE’S FINE! OF COURSE WE’RE ALL GETTING ALONG!)
    • Throw a preset on the photo and a seasonal stamp on that card and everyone will know you’re perfect! Easy peasy. 

Psst. Over here. Back in reality. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re not perfect. Your family is not perfect. I know, it’s ok, take a long deep breath. What even IS perfect, anyway? You’re all just messy and wonderful and grumpy and magical and just exactly what you’re supposed to be. Your outfits don’t match on a daily basis, but that’s because we’ve all been in sweats since March. Every member of your family has actually never smiled at the same time without being told to because she’s hungry and he can’t find his watch and that little one is actually over there peeing in the corner again. Everyone has gained the covid-19 (lbs) because our bodies are designed to protect us. And typically in Rochester, snow rarely falls gently. So all of this is out unless it’s curated. And curated is ok, it’s great, it’s just not what I do. 

I do real life. We all *do* real life, but the clients I work with are willing to let my camera capture it because they see the value in remembering life as it really was

If I asked you what everyday life was like for your family in any given season, I imagine your answer would not be about matching outfits and smile-hugging. I imagine you’ll tell me about baths in the sink, cutting up chicken nuggets, decorating the tree and inescapably having at least a few ornaments broken in the process. You’ll tell me about all the glasses of wine that got you through decorating the gingerbread houses (which, in the end, fell off the table and became a meal for the dog). You will be able to recall, with great detail, the Halloween costume you spent an hour getting your kid into, only for him to have to pee five minutes into trick-or-treating. In the future you may not vividly remember that time you lost your shit because nobody cleaned up the playroom yet again, but you will most certainly be able to conjure the smell of your daughters sweaty, curly hair when she finally sat in your lap to snuggle and watch a show. That photo, the one of you breathing in that baby girl, will be the photo you’ll clutch to your chest the day she heads to college. Because that’s your real life. The whole tapestry of it is stitched together with tiny little moments and bigger traditions and you should have keepsakes of all of it. 

It’s the seemingly insignificant or even irritating instances we’ll all miss the most because those are the things that meant our person was there. The sound of the screen door you repeatedly asked your child to stop slamming. The half-drunk cups of coffee a spouse always left sitting on the bathroom counter. The way kids always crashed hard in a cranky heap on Christmas evening after all the excitement of the day. But also it’s the holy moments, the refreshing ones that serve as fuel to get us through the hard parts of the day. Those are the mental snapshots we’ll want to have a memory of during the next season of life when all of that feels a bit distant and foggy. The look on your daughter’s face when she was mad but she was just too cute to take seriously. The feel of those chubby feet when you pretend to bite them and make him giggle like crazy. Glancing out the window and seeing your husband running around the yard with the dog. For me, it’s watching my daughter’s tiny fingers try to grasp around my hand when she’s leading me to see something incredible she’s just built with blocks. All I want to do is to be fully there, feeling those little fingers and storing this fuel for later when she’s throwing a fit and I need to remember we really are connected.  

The work I do is important to me because I believe your real life IS perfect. The whole big, wild, mundane, mess of it. When we meet, we’ll talk about your everyday life. I’ll ask you to tell me about some key events that have led your family to where it is today. I’ll ask you what mundane and possibly annoying things happen now that you would inevitably miss if they weren’t part of your life anymore. You’ll laugh and roll your eyes while you tell me what makes each of your children quirky. It might feel a bit like family therapy, but I promise it’s relevant. I want to know what holds the rhythm of the heartbeat of your family.

So when the snow outside is falling like an air raid instead of in sweet, gentle flakes, and your kids spill chocolate milk all over their perfect Christmas card outfits, just stop for a minute. Breathe it in. Throw away the perfection checklist and lean on exactly what your life is, here and now, fully as is. Know that this life is perfect because it’s yours and it’s worth remembering.  

Ready to throw away the perfection checklist and document your life as it is right now? Check out my holiday tradition sessions or contact me to schedule a storytelling session. I can’t wait to hear from you!


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