Photography Turns My Generally Pleasant Son Into a Sobbing Red-Faced Mess

This is actually a pretty good one.

This is actually a pretty good one.

Island Packet — My younger son, 3, is a delightful little potato of a child. Where his older brother was cautious, he’s unguarded and impulsive. Where his older brother was quiet and thoughtful, he’s boisterous and shouty. Where his brother can subsist for weeks on Clif bars, microwaved bacon and blue Gatorade, he’ll shovel down three slices of pizza in one sitting and then, upon being put to bed, report with precious sincerity, “I need to eat a Pop-Tart.”

He’s a physical, external, gregarious little Weeble person, except in pictures. In pictures he’s a sobbing red-faced mess who, according to the photographic record I’m establishing anyway, lives the approximate life of a Dickens sweatshop orphan, only without all the whistling and hope.

I cannot figure out why this is, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of pictures that exist of him. I take a lot of pictures. A lot of pictures. Whenever the Apple people upgrade their iCloud storage, they check with me first. There are a couple of buildings on the Google campus named after me. This guy from Life magazine called once to be like, “Dude, is everything OK?” It’s a lot of pictures, is what I’m saying.

I do this for a lot of reasons, mostly because I’m 39 and my brain is running low on capacity for “new memories,” although it’s doing a fine job of hanging onto important Blues Traveler lyrics from 1994, so that’s awesome. It’s just easier to store all my new memories on the laptop, which sounds weird, but don’t worry. I backed everything up.

It’s also because I keep to a strict policy I began with my older son, which is that if you take 200 pictures at a time, the laws of probability dictate there should be at least in which your child is maybe, just possibly LOOKING AT THE DAMN CAMERA. Taking 200 pictures at a time also increases the probability that you’ll get one in which your children do not look as though they’ve been asked to drink four room-temperature raw eggs. (And I have two kids, so there’s actually a better chance of the Cubs being led to the World Series by a singing centaur than getting both kids to look at the camera at the same time. If it ever actually happened, I wouldn’t even be able to take a picture because of the heart attack.)


Related, sort of


My older son, God love him, is also a sweet kid whose real, involuntary smile is the picture of joy; his “cheese” pose makes it look like someone is jabbing him in the back with a gulper eel. One day he will read this and throw something I treasure in the toilet, which I suppose is fair, but my Lord the boy’s stock photo-smile expression makes it look like someone just poured a pitcher of cake batter down the back of his pants. If I want a smile — like an actual human smile, I have to tell him to do NOTHING AT ALL, to empty his mind, and then do something myself to elicit an actual legitimate smile, like hit myself in the face with a rake. Which I do, because I am just that dedicated a father.

With the younger, I’m taking a separate approach: I’m recording his voice, his giggles, his laughs, his nonsensical sentences, the way he yells “blurp!” at the dinner table and then loses his mind in hysterics, so I can one day prove to him that yes, despite all visual evidence to the contrary, he seemingly enjoyed his childhood.





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

One response to “Photography Turns My Generally Pleasant Son Into a Sobbing Red-Faced Mess

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