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I still remember the exact moment the frenzy started. I walked into my sister’s house, sat down at the kitchen table, looked up and saw the most beautiful family portraits I had ever seen. They weren’t your typical trite portrait. You know the one where everyone is dressed in khakis, pressed white shirts and posing on a beach. NO, these were perfect, perfect, perfect! Did I mention they were perfect? Not only did they captured the essence of her family, but they looked like expensive art hanging on the wall.

I was on a mission. I too was going to have Exquisite family art on my walls. Presently, I was getting by with some candid photos. It was time for an upgrade!

I wasn’t even half way home and I already had the appointment booked with the photographer. I spent the afternoon finding the perfect location for the shots. I rolled by one park after another staking out the digs. I guess I must have looked creepy because some moms started to pull their children in close as I circled around a fifth time. I didn’t care. Weren’t you listening? I was on a mission, possessed, driven by desire for the perfect family portrait. Finally, I found it, the perfect park. Next, I needed to get my family on board. How hard could that be?

Shilling cries piercing the air, tears flowing like a faucet, kicking and clawing; my son fought the hair stylist like a wild bear. This was not how I envisioned this day going. It was the day before our photos!! What the hell am I going to do now.

The next morning after the barber shop, I did what any obsessive perfectionist would do; I bought a hair trimmer from Amazon, postponed our photo shoot, and bought myself three weeks to get my son use to the buzzer. I began by letting him hold it. Next I ran it through his hair with the cap on and finally I made up a song to the, “Wheels On the Bus” melody but inserted “The buzzer in your hair goes up and down” instead. My plan was all falling into place… Picture me saying that ala Austin Powers, you know, with pinky finger in mouth coupled with diabolical laugh.

Two days before the shoot, I set the plan in motion. Everything seemed to be going smooth until it wasn’t. He wouldn’t let me near his hair and he started freaking out again. I distracted him with his favorite puppy, just long enough to make two stripes in the back of his head. This was my first time using a buzzer and I have no idea why on earth I thought I would be good at it. Apparently, I was delirious with desire and thought I had super hair cutting powers. Anyhow, the puppy magic wore off and I was left with a three- year old shaking his fists at me. So I did what any other rational mother would do and I shook my fists back at him and sent him to his room. I was pissed. I had put the time in, I was committed, I made up a whole damn song!

At this point, my husband is looking at me like I am escapee of a psyche ward. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realize he is justified. I have crazy swirling eyes, my hair is disheveled and there is a loud buzzing hair trimmer in my hand. Throw some blood on me and I’m ready for Halloween party.

My husband starts to say something to me and then thinks better of it. We wait downstairs expecting my son to come barreling out of his room, but he doesn’t. I hear him crying, but he doesn’t leave his room. I wait six excruciating minutes and then go upstairs to his room.

He was practically hyperventilating he was so upset. I take a closer look at the door and realize that the gate outside of his room had prevented him from turning the handle down. He could have easily freed himself by turning the handle up, but being only three, he didn’t realize it. So, not only did I torture him with a buzzer, I locked him in his room. “Mom of the year, right here!”

As I held him close, he stopped crying and he looked up at me and said something powerful. “It doesn’t feel good to have my hair cut, it feels good when you hug me.”.

What the hell was wrong with me? Why was I acting like some blood deprived vampire trying to get these perfect family photos? My son only wanted to feel good and be loved. He didn’t care what he looked like.

He reminded me of something very important: Perfect often comes with a big price tag. The act of achieving the perfect memory of my family came at the expense of my little boy.

My son did eventually let me cut his hair, and I did eventually get my family portrait, but I have a new definition of what perfect is, it’s not something you can see from the outside, but something that you feel on the inside. When you feel good, everythings perfect!

Months later, I showed my sister the pictures and told her the horror story. She laughed and said her picture experience was one of the most stressful days of her life too.

Candid photos are looking better and better!

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