Many of my regular readers are on our Christmas card list. Thus, they know that we generally go with the obvious option and just slap a picture of the girls on it. Over the years, that process has become problematic. I have no idea why, but there’s something about lining up for a picture in Christmas pajamas or other holiday outfit that makes our girls lose their minds. And thus we lose ours.

The ability to stand still and smile disappears when we try to take the picture. One kid gets the giggles and they all get them. Or one doesn’t like her hair or her outfit or her sister is bugging her or something else is setting her off and she refuses to smile. Or they’re too close. Or not close enough. And on and on.

I’m sure none of this is foreign to the other parents out there.

Two years ago, after an especially contentious photo session, we agreed we would never do it again. Last year we used a vacation picture for our Christmas card. This year we just happened to have a wedding, at which all the girls were dressed in their best, six weeks ago and are using a picture taken there.

But that doesn’t completely solve the problem. We also make a photo calendar each year for ourselves and the grandparents. And we always put a fresh holiday picture on the December page. Which means we still have to go through this nonsense.

So last night was nonsense night. I warned the girls in advance that we just needed them to be good for five minutes. “I need one good picture, do you understand? That’s all. This is for your family, so please help me out.” They all nodded their understanding and pledged to be good.

I was able to take individual shots of each girl as we tested locations and lighting. But the second we put all three together, it was over. L. wouldn’t smile the same pretty smile she had used five minutes earlier when it was just her. C. looked like a lunatic, eyes bugging out and a manic smile on her face. And she was the sister with the giggles. M. soon caught the giggles and passed them on to L.. And M. kept either squeezing L. out of the frame, or putting her arms in front of her face.

Sometimes we’d be on the verge of a good shot, and then M. would start talking while her sisters held their smiles. Or someone looked to the side while the others looked at me. And down the list of ways to ruin the picture they went.

As is our holiday tradition, there was much parental consternation, little child cooperation, and eventually we gave up and sent them to bed 45 minutes early because we were fed up. My parting words to them were, “All I asked for was one good picture and you couldn’t even give me that.” Another quality parenting moment.

Fortunately we got enough B- quality pics to put together a little collage for the December page and sent it off to the printers.

One day, we’ll pull out all these calendars when the girls come home from college or bring their own families over during the holidays, and flip through them, matching memories to photos. And when we get to December, I’ll be sure to remind them how they made it a nightmare to get that picture taken each year. My hope is they’ll look at me in disbelief and think I’m making it all up, not remember me being red in the face as I yelled at them to settle down, hold still, shut up, and smile.