I know it’s the dead of summer, so maybe Christmas cards are the furthest thing from your mind.
Since I have a favor to ask, I want to give you time to think it over well ahead of that moment when you’re deciding whether you need 100 cards or if you could scale back to 50 and save a few bucks.
Here’s my simple request: If you are a parent who sends out holiday cards with a big photo of your child or children, please get in the picture this year.
We’re in our 40s, so lots of our friends are deep into the parenthood years. That’s translated to a huge percentage of the cards that arrive in December featuring big, colorful photos of adorable, smiling kids.
Each one I open makes me a little sad.
I get that you love your kids. That love is worth celebrating, because let’s face it, not every child in the world can say that. So I understand wanting to send a card that shouts to everyone in your address book, “Hey, look at this cutie! I love her/him/them more than anything in my life!”
But here’s the thing. Even if I know your kids — even if I hang out with them, play games with them, buy them gifts — the reason I know them is because I’m friends with you. I didn’t independently develop a friendship with a 6 year old. That relationship is an extension of my relationship with you.
Why aren’t you in the picture, too?
When I get a card from you, I’m excited to hear from you. In an era when we mostly text and email, getting real, actual hard-copy mail is a rare treat that I really enjoy.
Then I open the envelope … and you aren’t there.
Maybe that’s because your little one is so perfectly sweet looking while you are, I don’t know, going grey or heavier than you used to be or in some other way less than physically perfect.
If I’ve seen you in the last year, I probably already know you have a double chin or lost your hair or whatever you see in the mirror.
If I haven’t seen you lately, are we friends on Facebook? Do you have photos there? Yeah, no secrets.
If I haven’t seen you and we aren’t Facebook friends … why are you sending me a card again? I’m kidding. Even so, if I haven’t laid eyes on you in person or electronically — still, I promise you, you’re getting older and I am, too.
If you’re sending me a Christmas card and you’re worrying what I’m going to think of your middle-aged paunch, maybe you should just save the stamp. Because I see sending a holiday card with your child on it as a sign of friendship — this isn’t just the perfunctory card you give to your barber with a tip, we’re close enough that you’re giving me a look at the person or people you probably love most in life. And if we’re friends, I’m going to be happy to see your smiling face.
Parenting is a big job. You probably see less of your friends than you used to because you’re busy with diapers or homework or recitals. Sitters aren’t cheap. Maybe you don’t travel as much. If you’ve faded a little from our social life, you don’t have to fade from your holiday card, too. You can use that tradition as an opportunity to stay connected while you have your hands full.
This isn’t saying you should take us off your holiday card list if you like to send a card with a picture of your kid.
It’s just a friendly request to please step out from behind the camera and get in the photo with your kids. Instead of making it just about the little ones, celebrate the whole family.
I want to see you, too.