Picture this: A holiday card without kids

31 Dec

Linder Christmas Photo 2013

Linder Christmas Photo 2013

Today as I was taking down the holiday cards I had displayed in our kitchen, I started thinking about how much the card sending tradition had changed in my adult life. It’s very rare to receive a card without a photo these days, and like most American households, 99 percent of the cards we receive feature children. Children at Disney World, on their first day of school, at the beach and wailing in Santa’s lap.

While most of us love photo cards, they have created an issue for adults who don’t have children. What kind of Christmas card do you send when you don’t have small offspring to feature in matching outfits? I still like to receive old fashioned greetings cards, but most folks seem compelled to create a photo card. One friend of mine said that now that her step sons are grown she no longer send cards, because “who wants a generic Hallmark card or to see a bunch of adults in a photo.” It seems there’s a general consensus that children are as essential to holiday cards as stamps.

I have thought it might be entertaining to see the reaction from friends and family if my husband and I sent out a Christmas card with just a picture of the two of us smiling at the camera – and not a picture of our sons. My guess is that people would automatically think it was a mistake. They would turn the card over a few times looking for the kids, only to be shocked and disappointed it was only me and Jeff.

It would be a shame not to include our children on the annual card since people who don’t have kids will go to great lengths to feature pictures of children.

A few years ago a single friend of mine took a photo with what seemed like a dozen nieces and nephews. It was great picture, but a little confusing. Why is our single friend surrounded by all of these little people: Has she become a camp counselor? Practicing to be a model for the Hanna Anderssen catalog? Is she the little old lady who lived in a shoe? When I asked her to explain, she said: “Well I got my sisters’ and brothers’ kids together, because you can’t send out a card without kids.”

Well there you have it. You can’t send out a card without a picture of kids.

Another friend took the quest for kids a step further. On a Mission trip to Peru, she took a picture with a group of Peruvian youngsters in traditional costume from the orphanage where she worked. That picture graced the front of her Valentine card and looked like a good shot for UNICEF. This particular friend is very kind hearted and religious, but not exactly your Peace Corps or mission trip type – she is more the Four Seasons type. Also, none of our mutual friends is the “spend-your-vacation-at-a-Peruvian-orphanage” type either – I dare say she’s the only one in our group who has even been on a mission trip. So you can imagine the confusion when her holiday card turns up and she’s surrounded by a group of kids from South America. Friends texted me to see if she had photoshopped herself into the picture.

I find it strange that some businesses use pictures of children on their cards. The owners of our mosquito extermination company sent us a holiday card, and when I opened it – not realizing it was a business Christmas card – I wondered aloud whose kids were featured in the picture. Then I saw it was from the Mosquito Authority and the girls were the owners’ children. Undoubtedly, the children are a better choice than dead mosquitoes.

If you don’t have kids, dogs are always a good substitute. We have several friends who send pictures of themselves with their dogs – or professional studio shots of only their dogs. Cats do not work as well, in my opinion. I like cats, but they are not as universally accepted as companions as dogs are. I was recently at the hair salon and noticed a Christmas card on the bulletin board of a woman surrounded by her cats. It was hard not to think “crazy cat lady.” I hope she only sent the card to her hair dresser, her mother and the Humane Society.

The problem of how to include children on a card can be particularly vexing for senior citizens. An older couple we are friends with used to send a card with all four of their grown children, sons- and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. They have now downsized to sending a photo of only themselves with their four grandchildren. So if you didn’t know better, it would look like our Septuagenarian friends had adopted four girls.

Eliminating the actual parents from the pictures is common. In my experience, aunts and grandparents are much more likely to appear in the pictures with the children than the children’s actual mom and dad.
There are two primary reasons why kids are on cards and parents are not:

First, it’s virtually impossible to get a whole family to look decent (sometimes event to look in the same direction) in a photo.

Second, kids are cuter than parents.

That’s the moment of truth for all of you who are seeking creative ways to include kids on your Christmas cards. Parents put kids on cards because our kids look better than we do. Sadly, pets often look better than we do too. (For those of you who do not have kids, you look better than those of us who are parents. You still care about how you look – and if you are single you really care. So go on, put yourself on the card.)

So back to if Jeff and I should send out a card with just the two of us smiling happily in front of the tree without a child in sight. I am sure our mothers would call for an explanation – perhaps they would demand a follow up card.

Our child-free friends might see it as an opportunity to rent our children to be on their Christmas card. After all, if we aren’t using our boys as models, someone should. (I have no Peruvian costumes, sorry.)

Of course, for Jeff and I to have a picture on next year’s card, that means we actually have to take a decent picture. Even though we have 12 months to accomplish that, I think we will stick with just the kids.


2 Responses to “Picture this: A holiday card without kids”

  1. Jennifer December 31, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    This is hilarious and so true!! Keep the blog posts coming!!

  2. Brenda December 31, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    And what do you do with all these Christmas cards AFTER Christmas?

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