A moment in time

Living

FAMILY PORTRAIT Edwin McGreal with his wife Aisling and their children, from left: Séimí, Éamon and Frankie. Pic: Olga Klofac

The Day Diary
Edwin McGreal

It is often said that a photograph is a moment in time. A snapshot of a certain setting or event. Nothing taken before or after will be the same.
But the preparation for ‘a moment in time’ is anything but momentary when kids are involved.
For every lovely picture you see of a child on social media smiling at a particular event, be it Christmas, birthdays etc, you can add many more false starts. Those in the picture can look graceful but beneath the surface, like the swan, there’s some amount of flapping going on.
And then there’s the professional family photographs.
The end product might reveal a blissful family which I hope we look like here but a behind the scenes documentary in ‘the making of the moment’ would reveal an altogether more hectic – and often traumatic – experience.
We got family photos taken recently by Olga Klofac in Charlestown. We were there for photos with Frankie and Éamon when they were babies and learned a lot about the dos and don’t for travelling from Achill to Charlestown.
So when you saw the amount of stuff we’d to bring in the cars and the amount of planning done in the days in advance of it, you’d swear we were going to Costa Rica and not Charlestown.
Foreign invasions have been completed with less planning than this operation.
We took separate cars. Aisling took Séimí so he could get some sleep on the way up. Avoidance of sleep was simply not an option.
I took the oldest two and off we went, just about foregoing a trailer.
The trickiest balancing act is making sure they’re not hungry during the photographs – hungry kids rarely smile and certainly do not sit straight and do what they’re told – and making sure they don’t get sick in the car on the way after eating too much before we leave.
Trust me, it is the finest of lines. Dry cereal and bread rolls is the combination I settled on … until Éamon decided he didn’t want the bread roll, for the first time ever.
A quick stop in Supermacs in Charlestown was needed for chicken tenders to keep him ticking over … all the rules were being broken!
In we went and we had practised the photograph of the three kids lying together and it paid off. Both Frankie and Éamon dutifully lay down beside their baby brother at Olga’s behest, smiled at the cameras and as soon as she had the picture taken, Éamon asked ‘can we go to the playground now’?
If he wanted to go to Cork, I’d have acquiesced at that point. They were stars.  
A few more pictures taken and I was off out the door with Frankie and Éamon while Séimí waited for individual shots.
The pictures were beautiful and it was worth all the effort. But it could just as easily have been a disaster. The best laid plans can still go awry.
One man who has played in losing All-Ireland finals for Mayo told me getting a family photo taken with their young kids was the most traumatic experience of his life.
Not running out in front of a full Croke Park and dealing with the dejection of subsequent defeat. Getting a photo taken trumped it.
When you know, you know.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.