In the ’80s the family picture Christmas card became all the rage. Moms dressed their families in matching red plaid, teased their hair, and dedicated an afternoon to getting that perfect card picture. This was no small feat in the days of film cameras. You knew if the film came back and your eyes were closed, or you were not smiling, you were in trouble with Momma. It was hours of stress for what has become a simple click—make the family look perfect once a year.
While I love receiving Christmas cards, it has been 10 years since I sent one out, and most of our friends have given up as well. Today we don’t have to stuff the kids in their matching Christmas outfits and line them up for one perfect staged picture each year. Thanks to social media, now we do it every day. The worlds of Facebook and Instagram have taken what used to be a once a year farce and turned it into a daily event, especially at Christmas.
There are all the standard season photos:
- The fancy “we love each other so much” Christmas date night picture.
- The relaxed “Christmas movie day in PJs” picture.
- The “look at our craftiness” Gingerbread House making day picture.
- The 30 “look at my cleverness” daily elf pose pictures.
Day after day there is a very quiet, ever present pressure to get the perfect picture, to crop out the dirty dishes on the counter, to add a filter to reduce those circles under our eyes, and post it up to our social media accounts.
For Real Life?
My niece Makennah is the baby of our family. She has her own little drummer, or possibly tambourine shaker, that she marches to. She makes up lingo that the rest of our family adopts as actual sayings. My personal favorite is “for real life.” When she was four she started adding this to the end of any statement that needed a little extra emphasis.
“I am so mad,” she would yell at her big siblings and then add on, “for real life,” before stomping off to another room. Unfortunately for Makennah we would fall into hysterics. It’s possible that our family has egged her on just to get a “for real life” thrown at us.
At first we didn’t understand why she’d come up with this saying, but after a while it made perfect sense to us. When you are four-years-old you have to work hard to differentiate between real and not real. You sort and organize this crazy world we live in.
My Little Pony—not real.
Mom said I can ride a pony at the Stock Show today—for real life.
My brother and his friends shoot each other and play dead—not real.
My dad explains a boy shot his friends at school today—for real life.
After a few months we all started adding “for real life” into our conversations. This is a very useful saying! When you are fort-years-old you have to work very hard to differentiate between real and not real. You sort and organize this crazy world we live in. I use this saying to sort and fact-check my thoughts as I scroll through social media.
“She always seems so happy.” For real life?
“Everyone else has it all together.” For real life?
It’s hard to push back the comparisons and the urge to put up our own polished and pretty pictures on social media, blurring the lines, even for ourselves, of what our real life actually looks like.
Loving My Real Life
My friend Veronica has a shirt that says, Loving My Real Life. The first time I saw her wear it my heart cried “Yes! That’s what I want.” I want to love this one beautiful and messy life the Lord has given me. I want real moments with my daughters and my husband. I want to stop and really see the beauty of three girls sprawled up on my couch. I want to slow down and engage in conversations that last long enough for me to know my husband’s heart and worries.
I don’t want my girls’ childhood memories, especially at Christmas, to be of a mom manufacturing the perfect social media pictures each day, and then checking to see how many likes she got. I just want to live and love our real life.
Christmas is just a few days away. Christmas at your house may be large and boisterous, or small and intimate. It may feature a big traditional meal or Chinese take out. Whatever it is, it’s your real, beautiful, and messy life. So what if we all just stopped? What if we stopped the social media posts for three days.
What if between now and Christmas we took pictures only as memory keepers? We could take those moments we use editing and posting pictures to hug our kids closer and look into their eyes when they talk to us.
What if we gave up looking at our posts to see who commented or loved it, and used that time to listen to Great Aunt Maude tell the story of how she fell in love with Great Uncle Bob on a Christmas Eve for the thousandth time. (And this time we really listened.)
What if we just waited until the 28th or Jan 6th to post a Christmas album? Without the distraction of comparisons, or the pressure of manufactured images, we might just unblur the lines of real life and not real for a few days, and fall in love with the one beautiful real life we are living. What a gift we would give ourselves and our families this Christmas.
Wendy Anderson Schulz
Wendy is the founder of The Celebrated Family, a speaking and writing ministry for parents to equip and encourage them to grow in and pass on their faith to the next generation. She has been married to her college sweetheart, Pete, for nearly half of her life. Together they have been blessed with two children, Sarah and Emily.
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