Way back in 2008, someone left me a blog comment on this post: “Photos are great. Like the ducks you’re managing to keep things looking well on the surface despite all the furious paddling going on underneath.”

Stan, if by any chance you’re still out there, I’ve never forgotten that particular turn of phrase. It’s just so wonderfully perfect, and often remains true to this day. For instance, the utter and RELENTLESS shitshow of setting up a photo in which I appear with my own children.

When I take a photo of JB with the boys, I often do it when they’re not looking. Or I ask them to look up from whatever they’re doing and quickly snap the photo. I don’t pose them, is my point, because posing is a fucking nightmare.

Photos of me and the kids? Almost always posed. And then this happens:

“Guys, can I — guys! GUYS! GUYS. Pay attention. Stand over here for a second so I can — GUYS!!!

“Okay, Riley, you stand here, and Dylan, you — Dylan. DYLAN. Hello? Okay, can you — RILEY COME BACK HERE.”

“All right, I’m just going to stand behind … Riley, don’t do that with your tongue. Riley. RILEY. Okay, Dylan — Dylan?”

“Jesus, you guys. Okay, smile at Dad. Smile at Dad. Come on you guys, Dad is right there. Can you just … Riley. Your TONGUE. Put it BACK. In your MOUTH.”

“Dylan, if you don’t stop picking your nose I swear to god.”

“Okay! OKAY EVERYONE — what? Can you wait to pee for ONE SECOND?”

“One! Two! Three! SMILE! Whew. Was that really so har — what? He was what? Oh god.”

“Seriously you guys, come here. Huddle up. Look at me. Listen, I just want one photo. One photo. It shouldn’t be this difficult. Stand still and smile for one second and I swear I won’t bother you again. You can run around peeing and nose-picking for the whole rest of the day. Just one photo. Are we together on this? Are we a team? Okay high five! TEAM SHARPS!”


“Last try. And then I hurl myself off this mountain. Last try. I’m a broken woman. You’ve broken me. Just smile at the camera. Or don’t. I don’t care any more. Life is unmanageable chaos, who was I to think otherwise. Entropy descends upon us all.”

“Dylan please open your eyes. For the LOVE.”

“You know what, I –”


“What do you mean, look at it and tell you if it’s good enough? It’s good enough. Whatever the shit is on that camera roll, it is now officially good enough. I hate everything and everyone. Let’s go.”

All that paddling, but the amazing part is when I look back on the image — even just minutes later — I only see the surface. The happiness of our outing rather than the shitty experience and imperfect results of the dumb picture session. Photos are truly a miraculous thing.

Screen shot 2013-05-19 at 9.26.55 AM


19 Responses to “Like the ducks”

  1. Koa on May 19th, 2013 10:36 am

    That is potentially the single funniest, truest, most nail-on-the-head blog post any mother has written, anywhere, ever, to summarize the current state of my motherhood affairs. Ever. At least you got a nice picture out of it! I don’t usually look so well-behaved at the end of ours.

  2. Megsie on May 19th, 2013 11:19 am

    I am a long-time lurker, but this I had to comment on! This is LIFE: all that paddling. And that picture is so worth it! A request: Can I use this extended metaphor with my students next semester? It is just PERFECT. I would love for them to read it.

  3. Emily on May 19th, 2013 11:29 am

    This post made me laugh out loud, but what I really loved was reading your old post about Dylan. It is exactly what I have been going through here (second kid is easy….yeah right!), and it makes me realize that it will all pass and be easier again some day! Hope you guys are well. :)

  4. Anonymous on May 20th, 2013 2:06 am

    Gorgeous picture, Linda! Your writing is so funny and accurate – I only have about two nice pics of me and my boy (who’s 9!)!

  5. ememby on May 20th, 2013 6:37 am

    I love that phrase too, and the memories held up by a photo. So much of life from the outside is just like the ducks.

  6. Maggie on May 20th, 2013 8:29 am

    Every time I try to get a decent family photo and it’s a crap show, I inevitably think of this video. It’s funny because it’s true…


  7. Anais on May 20th, 2013 8:02 pm

    This reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes- every time his parents tried to snap a decent photo of him, he’d make faces or turn around.

    I love the visuals your words provide us with.

    Can’t wait to someday be at Barnes and Noble purchasing your book(s).

  8. Amy N on May 21st, 2013 2:13 pm

    I hope Stan is still out there and reads this. As for me, I could hear your words echoing in my head in my own voice. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone through that EXACT SAME scenario. UGH!

  9. June on May 21st, 2013 2:28 pm

    I write down stuff about our family life, and it’s so true that history is determined by the one who writes it. I deliberately avoid mentioning some of the really frustrating stuff because… honestly, I don’t want to remember it, relive it, remind anyone else that it happened.

    LOL, Paddling is for the birds!

  10. Angella on May 21st, 2013 8:37 pm


  11. Ashley on May 23rd, 2013 7:58 am

    Linda – You seriously get better looking with age. I wish I did too!

  12. Jenny on May 23rd, 2013 8:59 am

    I feel like you’ve been lurking in the bushes when I try and get a pic of me and my girls. Except in my final shot there would be more foreground and background and we’d be about an inch tall and slightly out of focus. Everyone around me will have such nice photos with my kids and they’ll look back and remember me as always looking pissed off and out of patience. Kudos to you for still managing to look lovely.

  13. stan on May 23rd, 2013 2:48 pm

    I think it might have been me who wrote that comment – I just don’t remember. I still enjoy reading… and the photos are still great. Keep on paddling!

  14. Erin on May 23rd, 2013 7:55 pm

    Hey, Stan’s still here, how cool! Ducks paddling our asses off, yes we are. I always end up squinting with the talking mouth face. Or Leno chin from trying to avoid the double. God bless selfies.

  15. sara on May 24th, 2013 7:40 pm

    Too funny and so true! Btw, isnt it annoying to ALWAYS be the one taking the puctures? Im the one in our family who will snap pics of the kids and my husband as they play or cuddle. So when you look through our pictures- im hardly in them! I hate ASKING someone to take my picture, and yes, then its totally posed. In fact, now that i think about it, i dont think i have a single candid shot of me and my kids… Linda, this post may be the catalyst for the next fight i have with my husband. :)

  16. beth on May 25th, 2013 8:31 pm

    What a lovely photo – you have a beautiful family; just randomly saw a post of yours from 2005 I think where the dog and cat are looking for the biscuits in the box – hilarious!! :) All the best.

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