When I was a kid, picture day at school was a big deal. Your parents picked your package (two 5x7s, four 4x6s and eight wallets) and you handed the envelope to the creepy photographer guy who had set up in the school gym. In return, you received a cheap black comb and the opportunity to glam yourself up. The background was blue, you had dressed in your ’70s or ’80s best and beamed a gap-toothed smile. Six weeks later your elementary school mug was immortalized in the homes of your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It was a carefully managed process.
Nowadays your child arrives home from school on a random Tuesday in April and hands you a packet of 84 pictures taken the week before when they hadn’t showered in three days, wore the sparkliest shirt in their drawer and made a game-time decision that you would really prefer “the laser backdrop.” Why are these even an option?
I’ll admit…Georgia’s picture pack that came home today was actually pretty tame compared to previous years. Of course I wish her hair was neater (and cleaner) and she didn’t look like she had just come from a “Dancing with the Stars” competition but hey, it could be worse. I remember last year’s first grade pictures had her smiling against bright disco-purple and Ben’s fifth grade shot made him appear to be attending school on some nuclear-green planet. Then there was the year that Ben had run out of clean laundry and gone to school one day – unbeknownst to us, on picture day of course – wearing a one-size-too-small red Wildcat t-shirt from High School Musical that was a gift from his grandparents. Whoops.
When Ben was younger, we were on a really bad roll of Murphy’s Law-type accidents the night before picture day. With injuries ranging from falling off a ladder (cut between the eyes) to an over-zealous hug (zipper gash to the cheek), we were always waiting for DSS to show up at the door producing photographic evidence of his bruised face as proof that we were knocking him around. And when Georgia was in Pre-K, you can imagine our delight when we found that the photographer had combed her curly hair before snapping a picture..we still lovingly refer to that one as her “Donna Summer ‘do.”
I suppose that bad school pictures are as much a part of growing up as playing soccer or learning to read, and I don’t know why they still matter so much (it’s not like our kids aren’t photographed ten times a day). But until I get three beauties against tasteful gray backgrounds, showing clean children wearing clean clothes and smiling angelically, I won’t be satisfied.
In the meantime, you can find me riding my Unicorn around town wearing size 2 skinny jeans.