Yesterday was picture day at Viva’s preschool. Her last photo came out so great, I was excited about taking a new one. I’m not a good photographer and I have neither a quality camera nor any photo-editing skills, so my pictures of my kids aren’t good. I have a friend who is a professional photographer turned stay-at-home-mom and her photos make me green with envy. Her daughter is a great photo subject. She’ll wear her hair in a bun, put on vintage pink sunglasses and ballet slippers, then casually page through a book while her mom snaps away. She ends up looking like toddler Audrey Hepburn.
I tried to take a picture of Pringles sitting on the mini sofa I bought for the girls. In the foreground is Viva, blurry, hair wild and untamed, face tilted up perfectly so you can see up her nose. Yes, it will be a hilarious memory. Yes, it captures her personality. No, it isn’t going in a frame on my wall.
The professionals not only have the top of the line cameras, they have the right lighting. After the picture is snapped, they eliminate fly-away hairs and blotchy rashes. The result is a frame-worthy photo I can mail to all the relatives. A Kelle Hampton version of my child.
My first mistake was telling Viva I was excited about it. My enthusiasm is a trigger for a quality she has that I like to call “I will shit all over everything you love.” Strike one.
The second error consisted of trying to make her wear something special and pretty. Strike two. I brought the dress along to preschool anyway. Knowing my Viva like I do, there was a very real possibility that she would get to school and have a grief tantrum because she wanted the dress that inspired her earlier rage tantrum.
When we arrived at school, the kids were having circle time. One of the teachers suggested I take her next door to get her picture taken. We had to wait our turn, and Viva was quiet and clingy. When her turn came, the photographer tried to entice her with tickles and teddy bears. Viva gave her the death glare she perfected in babyhood. The one that would make toe-pinching little old ladies in the grocery store roll their carts away. My friend Kate, a mother of three and grandma of six who never fails to get a smile from a child, only ever got ice-cold emotionless stares from my girl.
The co-director of our preschool was there too. She tried to help convince Viva, but my daughter only shook her perfectly poofed curls more vehemently. When she was boosted up into the chair despite her protests, she burst into tears. That’s where I gave up. Strike three. You’re out.
I’m not going to force her. She has her reasons. I know people hate parents like me, but I just don’t force my daughter to do things. I coax her if I can, and okay, maybe I’ve “forced” some hand-washing and teeth brushing, but those are for her health and well-being. A photograph is just something I’d like to have.
I offered the opinion that she might do better if I weren’t there, and they agreed to try again after she had some playtime with her friends. I left the dress for them. Again, she might demand it, thinking that she couldn’t have it. Odie came home with Viva on one hip, clutching the dress and unopened photo envelope in the other fist. He shook it at the sky with a “grrrr.” No dice. I tore up the envelope with the check inside and comforted myself that I saved us $40.
She tries my patience on a daily basis, but I love her as fiercely as she hates everything I ever try to make her do. My friends try to reassure me that she’s just a brilliant child and therefore moody and challenging. Let’s go with that.