My wife and I were standing in our sunroom recently, talking about our family.
The one thing you have to understand is that our sunroom spends most of it’s time covered with every toy imaginable and that day was no different. As we talked, she began telling me about a blog she recently read that showed creative children’s rooms that were actually normal. They were not like the examples you see in a design magazine. You know the ones- too good to be true, too crazy expensive to create, or perfectly kept by freak-of-nature kids who never trash their rooms.
We both agreed that, in real life that type of perfection is unattainable and unrealistic. Being the parents of 8 children, 6 of them very active 3 through 11 year olds, we would be the first to tell you that if you saw a picture of one of our kid’s rooms it would not look like it came from a magazine. It wouldn’t be dull or uninteresting…it just wouldn’t be perfect. The blog she read had the right idea!
Here’s what I want you to do– Take another look at the family picture above:
The family looks happy, wouldn’t you agree? If you had to describe them what would you say?
Maybe at first glance- Dad makes a solid salary and loves his job. Mom doesn’t work outside of the home but takes complete joy in doing household chores, driving her two children to and from school and soccer practice, and always has dinner on the table by 5. The children are well-behaved, never fight, and will someday each be the valedictorian of their graduating class, earning full-scholarships to Ivy-League schools. After 7 or 8 years of marriage, the mom and dad are still as in love, or more in love, than they were when they first met.
This is everything I would assume about this family.
Now, what if I told you that this portrait was fake? That these people are actors, and not a real family!
Guess what? It’s true. I purchased this picture from a stock-photo website called istockphoto.com. This is staged. Most likely, they met each other for the first time when they stepped into the studio to do the photo shoot.
You’re probably a bit disappointed aren’t you? After all, they look so perfect and beautiful- the ideal family, right? Or maybe you aren’t disappointed. Either way, here are some questions I want to pose: If this picture isn’t real, then why do we find ourselves & our families trying to be like this picture so often? What is it about perfection that has us so driven to be something we really are not?
Honestly, my family portrait, on most days, would look nothing like this picture.
With all of our bumps and scrapes and wounds from the harsh realities of life, we’re imperfect and that’s okay with me. It’s through our imperfection that we find perfection, as messed up as that seems. I’m much more weak than I am strong and confident with this. I often stop, in the midst of life, when I’m trying to measure up to something that’s unreal, and ask myself, Why are you trying to be something you’re not? Why are you chasing after the perfect look, the perfect image, the perfect life? Have you ever found yourself trying to do this or asking questions like this?
You can spend all of your time trying to measure up to a mirage but in the end it’s just that- a mirage. It’s unattainable because it’s not real. Maybe like me, this is a challenge or encouragement you need to take personally, like I do. As you feel the urge to project something you’re not, or cover the reality of your life up, remember that you were perfectly created to be imperfect you. And so was your family. Celebrate it! Embrace it!
Below is our family picture, taken a few falls ago. It sits framed on our mantel above our fireplace in our living room. We love this picture because there are a thousand stories we could tell you about all of us. Some amazing, some, not so amazing. But it’s real. It’s off-base, compared to the world’s unrealistic standards for family. But, it’s us, imperfections and all. And we love us just the way we are!
Has this been a struggle for you or your family? Have you tried to be a stock-family?
Credit: Reggie Joiner & Carey Nieuwhof with the stock-family portrait illustration, from their book Parenting Beyond Capacity. You can find it on the resource page.