The Essence of Family

After many years of failed attempts (six years to be specific), I am proud to announce that this year it is FINALLY happening!

Christmas cards have been ordered and printed and will be slowly making their way to our friends and family. Hooray for snail mail. 

My polaroid-covered fridge can vouch for the fact that I have always treasured photos. Yet somehow, even with my love for pictures and deep desire to “adult” (a Christmas card screams “adulting,” doesn’t it?), this will be our very FIRST Christmas Card. 

Year after year, one day would roll into the next, and before I could say “Happy Thanksgiving,” the year would be over, and no Christmas cards would be sent. 

I vowed that this year would be different; so, in the fall, I reached out to my incredible friend and photographer Lilly and booked a date for our photos. As the weeks approached, we carefully finalized plans. The location was set, cute outfits were put aside for each of my 3 kids and a mood board was created on Pinterest for inspiration.

Photo day was finally here. We were having a beautiful family day; literally all smiles right up until it was time to get ready. Cue tears. It began with my 4-year-old Lyla refusing to wear the dress I picked out, saying that it was not her “favorite dress.”

“Not worth the battle,” I thought as I helped her change into the dress of her choice.

As we arrived at the location in Miami, the Florida humidity greeted my face and hair. If you know, you know. On the short walk from the car to where we were meeting Lilly, I could feel my hair frizzing up as sweat began to roll down my back. Then, my super content and non-fussy 3-month-old daughter began to cry, so I picked her up from the stroller as I greeted Lilly. From the corner of my eye, I watched as my 2-year-old son Liam removed both socks and shoes from his feet. My futile attempt to put his shoes back on only led to more crying. As Lilly began to take photos of the 5 of us, (Liam crying in the background) I could feel myself faking a smile through my frustration. A sense of disappointment managed to sneak its way into my mind.

A few minutes into taking our photos, Lilly said something that completely shifted my perspective and brought me back to the moment. “The goal is to capture the essence of your family. You guys are doing great,” she said in encouragement.

“…the ESSENCE of your family”.

As I considered the moment in front of me, I realized that the essence of my family, the heart and soul of who we are in THIS season, looked just like what I was witnessing.

A barefooted 2-year-old who delights in being outside, running, exploring and playing.

A funny and independent 4-year-old, who loves to dance and make us laugh.

An observant 3-month-old, who enjoys being held and is captivated by her new surroundings.

This shifted my perspective. I asked my husband to put on some music and we began to dance and play with our kids; Lilly captured the beautiful chaos as “Frio, Frio” (by Juan Luis Gerra – one of Lyla’s favorites) played in the background.

This yearning for the “perfect” photo, where my toddlers and baby were simultaneously and gleefully smiling at the camera, stemmed from my unrealistic expectations of how that moment should look.

Christmas season can be filled with unspoken, societal pressures and expectations. The urge to have a perfectly curated tree, trending décor, homemade sugar cookies (while making sure that they are gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and tasty) and flawlessly wrapped gifts is strong. The pull and sometimes guilt from family and friends to make it to all the parties and events can leave us feeling tired and drained.  

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make things beautiful, in fact, I encourage it.

Google new recipes, get inspired from Pinterest or Instagram photos and buy pretty ornaments for your 7 foot tree. Do all these things as long as they do not distort or cause you to overlook the true meaning of Christmas. Do them as long as they still bring you and your family joy.

Unrealistic expectations blinded me from the blessings that were right in front of me.

Family. Health. Joy.  

What a gift it is to have these. Hearts tethered to each other in love. My sweet, beautiful little tribe.

As a mom, a wife, a daughter and a friend, these are the things that I treasure and place value in.

My goal is to continue to grow and learn, so I created two personal challenges during this Christmas season. 

  1. I’m challenging myself to build meaningful moments and memories with my family. I believe that my kids will remember the experiences and memories we create far above any physical gift that I could give them. (Don’t worry, there will still be gifts under the tree, they just won’t be the focus of Christmas day). What does a typical Christmas season look like for my family? How can I flip the script by introducing significant and enjoyable traditions? There are no rules.
  2. I’m challenging myself to create moments of rest. In order for this to happen, I might have to say NO to some people and to some plans. As a 2 on the Enneagram (The Helper), “people pleasing” is one of my weaknesses, so I know this will be a challenge for me. By saying no to some things, however, I leave space and room to get quiet, to get inspired and to reflect. This allows me to feed both body and soul.

During this season, I encourage you to set time in order to take inventory of what is working and what is no longer working for you and your family. Set some new challenges and make it better. Merry Christmas!

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