Image of me in 6th Grade with my Dorothy Hamill haircut
Today is picture day at school, and I gave myself a huge pat on the back for getting the kids out the door with clean hair, brushed teeth and clothing that confirms that I do indeed do laundry.
Turns out I'm not doing enough.
Some lady at school just told me she's having her 10-year-old's teeth whitened. Digitally, of course. She just forked over like $20 extra to have her daughter's teeth retouched on her school picture.
Turns out, for a few extra bucks, you can have your child's teeth whitened, zits airbrushed away or Photoshop out braces. You can even change the background to make it look like your kid is sitting smack dab in middle of the Garden of Eden if you like.
Braces, pimples and playground war scars can all be wiped away with the click of your school photographer's mouse. The image of a perfect child will be left behind for you to share on Facebook along with your latest trip to Fiji.
I admit that the idea of a picture of my son sitting in the Library of Congress might have its' appeal, but I personally don't understand why anyone would want to "fix" their kid's school picture. This isn't the cover of Teen Beat.
Personally, I've always thought the whole point of school pictures is to provide an authentic representation of childhood -- to record every shift of the dental landscape, document every boo-boo, remind us of an unrequited love affair with bangs. These imperfections mark the amazing metamorphoses from tot to teenager -- and what could be more awkward... I mean beautiful?
When I was a kid, we didn't have room parents relentlessly snapping photos of the children engaging in every school activity from gardening to pasta art. Class pictures were the one chance a year our parents had to capture us in a formal photograph. They dressed us head to toe in some uncomfortable outfit we hated and sent us to school with instructions to smile... or else. The only embellishments in these photos were a prop desk, prop books and a unnecessarily sharp prop pencil to reinforce the scholarly nature of the image and imply our willingness to conform. Whatever else we had going on when that picture was taken was captured on film for posterity.
Should the picture just be too horrible for the stairway wall, you're only shot at redemption was make-up picture day. Ah... the good ol' days.
I'm just not interested in seeing a flawless, beaming face of my children year after year. Call me crazy, but I see class pictures as an opportunity to capture the essence of my kids as they were in that moment in time. I want to look back at the pictures years from now and remember every idiosyncrasy, every defect and the little imperfections that made them unique and completely delicious. As far as I'm concerned, once you brush away the flaws, you might as well just keep the stock photo that comes with your picture frame.
And I can't help but wonder: Where does it end? Should a school photographer fix a bad haircut or shave off a few extra pounds? I can see it now. My future 10th grader, devastated by her natural flatness, sees her proofs and begs me for boobs. Do I acquiesce for an extra $30? (Or is that $30 per boob?) I don't think so.
I will always cherish the flawed images that come home in the neat little packet of 5 x 7's, 3 x 5's and wallet sizes. Every year, I encourage my kids to dress for picture day in something they love and I let the chips fall where they may. Last year my son's most picture just came back with him wearing his favorite dragon t-shirt and half-smiling in a way that showcases the scar on his upper lip from where he was smacked in the head by a dog (it's a long story). And I love it.
My point is, give me a picture of the smiling face of my child adorned with multi-colored braces, a scar on their lip or a zit smack dab in the middle of their forehead. That's just the way I want to remember them when they grow up.