There are two photos in our family room from a wonderful vacation we took in the Bahamas recently. You could say they are those perfect family photos, the ones you share on all of your social media accounts. The ones, you know, you put in cute frames and display proudly in your family room. They are perfect.
Except, they’re not.
Not even a little bit.
Let me tell you about those two photos. They were gross. Yes, I said gross. More about that later. They were certainly not our best effort, and we were totally failing as parents just to get the photo in the first place.
It was our last night in Atlantis. We had just finished a delicious dinner with the whole family and finished just in time to take the perfect shot on the beach, just after the sun was setting. If you’ve been to Atlantis, you know that the resort is absolutely ginormous. The walk to the beach would take a good ten minutes, and it was now an hour past Brooks’ bedtime, (parent fail #1.)
The ten-minute walk in the stroller was beginning to put Brooks to sleep and he was fading, fast, so we did all we could to keep him awake so he could be alert for the photo, when all he wanted to do was sleep, (parent fail #2.)
Before we had left the restaurant, Brooks was acting super fussy, as well, so this was a risk in the first place to not just take him straight back to the hotel room. However, on the walk to the beach, he surprisingly snapped out of the fussiness and was super happy, although sleepy, but cute and smiley and laughing. I thought, thank you, Lord! He got his second wind! This is going to work! What I didn’t think to realize nor remember was that Brooks was fussy at dinner because he was gassy, and I fed him prunes just a little while earlier. Now he was all of a sudden not fussy… I did not put two and two together, (parent fail #3.)
We arrived at the beach, Brooks was awake, happy and we were totally gonna do this thing! My mother-in-law had her good camera and I was wearing my white dress; you know, the one you wait to wear until the last night of vacation when you’re tannest, obviously. Brooks was dressed to impress in his white buttoned-down, and Adam was looking handsome as ever, fancy white pants and all. Perfect.
That is until I picked Brooks up from the stroller.
All of a sudden, my skin was not the only thing on me that had a tan.
Poop. Poop everywhere. My white dress. Brooks’ white buttoned-down. My perfect photo! Mort.
Adam and I yelled out, freaked out and laughed hysterically. I was covered in poop. Brooks was covered in poop. The stroller was covered in poop. His stroller blanket was covered in poop. So. Much. Poop.
Thank you, prunes. I forgot how well you worked.
We had two choices here. We could have done the right thing and gotten him back in that stroller, raced back to the room to get him in the bath, get us both in the bath, and get him to bed. OR, we could have taken the photos anyway.
Yep… (enter parent fail #4.)
We debated for a hot second on what to do, gave each other a look and yelled out simultaneously,
“We’re doing it anyway!”
And we ran like little children onto the beach, laughing and giggling and smiling.
We took the photos anyway.
If you look at them closely you can see stains on my dress and Brooks’ discolored shorts, even after my MIL used her amazing Photoshop skills to try and remove them. But I put them up anyway. I display them proudly anyway, because as much as we try to be perfect, it’s the not so perfect moments that create the best memories. It’s the not so perfect moments that represent our lives in the ugliest, most real, yet most beautiful ways. It’s the not so perfect moments that allow us to “fail” as parents, as people, but not feel so guilty because we had a good laugh in the end. It’s the not so perfect moments that allow us to relate to one another.
I display those photos because it’s us. It’s all of us. It’s perfectly imperfect people.
Every time I look at those photos, I smile. And I can’t wait to tell Brooks all about it. I can’t wait to tell him how we sat in the bathtub together, cleaning poop off our skin, laughing at how good a mood he was in, even while sitting in his own poop for so long. That he was just happy to get it out of him. I can’t wait to tell him we had to throw out half of his outfit and blanket because Mommy was not about to spend her last night in the Bahamas cleaning that up. No.
I can’t wait to tell him…
That it was so gross.
That I couldn’t stop gagging while cleaning him, and Daddy had to take over.
That it was a really long night.
I can’t wait to tell him…
That I’d do it all over again.
That I loved every second of it.
That it was the best night.
I can’t wait to tell him that we laughed at our failure to get the perfect family photo…
And it was perfect.
We need to laugh. We just need to. We really do. Life is hard. All is broken. We are weary. If we let it, the sorrows of this world can swallow us whole. We need to find joy in the little things. We need to not condemn each other’s failures but lift each other up in them. We need to relate.
We need to love.
We need to be kind. To ourselves and to each other.
We need to pray.
We need to take poop-stained photos in fancy white dresses.
And then we need to display them proudly in our family room.
Facebook, too. Obviously.