Year after year, my son tends to knock school Picture Day out of the park with a confident stance and natural smile. Except for one year when he was two and-a half and in daycare. Because his friends will one day Google his name, I won’t post it here. Instead, I’ll paint a mental picture for you.
He was wearing a brightly coloured striped polo shirt and khaki shorts. They sat him on a faux tree stump in front of a lake background. The photographer took three shots of him; some close up, some with a wider frame. In every pose, he had a slightly different but equally miserable look on his face. He’d clearly been crying, he clearly was NOT in the mood and it looked like maybe they’d been at this for a while.
They packaged these shots in a cheerful collage that said “Spring 2012,” which we now refer to as the “Season of Misery.”
My husband took one look at it and said, “OK, we are definitely NOT buying that.” To which I replied, “Go get the checkbook.”
He concedes now that I was right. You will want those pictures later. So buy them now.
Back when we were kids — before parents walked around with smartphones, snapping pictures of their kids’ every move — school pictures were serious business.
You got dressed in your cleanest pieces of school uniform, you curled and sprayed your hair, you sat up straight and smiled, you tried not to blink, and you prayed for a good result. An 8x10 version of this picture would be displayed in your living room for the next 365 days. There would be no other family photoshoots or professional-quality pictures of you this year. You had one chance at this.
Things are different now. The amount of pictures we take of our kids in a year (or in a day) is roughly a thousand times higher. If they blink or move or frown, you can take another shot, and then another. You shift them to the side of the room with the softer lighting or kneel down for a better angle. Then you choose the best of the best, crop it, add a filter and send it out on social media for all the world to fawn over. Photographic perfection has become the norm.
Maybe that’s why this mum was so taken aback when her son made what I can only describe as a “playful growling” face in his school picture.
At first, she wasn’t a fan, saying this in a Facebook post: “I’m so mad right now! I checked my sons book bag and find these!!!!”
But the picture went viral, attracting tens of thousands of likes and shares and a slew of positive media coverage. Two days after her initial post, she had a change of heart, saying, “Knowing that his silly picture brought joy all over the world, how can I continue to be flustered?”
She bought the pictures.
She made the right choice to embrace the imperfect. Embrace the goofy expression or the strained I’m-trying-so-hard-this-actually-hurts smile. The previously sleek hairstyle that is now windblown from fruit break or a game of handball.
If your kid brings home school picture perfection every year and you feel left out, search online for “awkward school pictures.” Start scrolling and enjoy.