School Picture Day is a rite of passage that, despite the nightmares most of us harbor from our own childhoods, we insist our children endure. The forced smiles, the clothes they would never ordinarily wear, and the spotlight centered on them? It's a lot to foist upon a little person. But we do, and we demand that the result of these labors turn out perfectly. So for all that effort, and knowing what could go wrong, I've got a few prayers I'm offering up to the Photo Gods on my kid's school picture day.
I've been volunteering at Picture Day at my son's school for the past two years, and let me tell you: I've seen things. It is a wonder how between drop off at 8:15 a.m. and the first photos at 8:35 a.m., that some children manage to create complete rat's nests with their hair. I think some kids must make beelines to the nearest desk fan and just let 'er whirl until the whole mess gets tangled in there. The tiny combs they hand us volunteers break in our trembling hands when we simply look at the challenge before us. I've seen older kids, that I know were not sent to school in sweatpants and a shirt with holes, change out of their nice clothes and into their ratty ones because that's the "cool" thing to do. I've seen kids bullied by their classmates while they waited in line, to the point that they froze in front of the photographer (wouldn't you?).
The kindergarteners are cute, and mostly willing to grin and follow the photographer's directions. But as you creep towards the older grades things get awkward. The photo studio my son's school hires is a fancy production, complete with a fashion shoot-type set-up with multiple reflecting umbrellas, backdrops, and flattering lights. The photographers are instructed to ask the kids to do a number of poses, including a dreadful "jump in the air" pose, which I guess would be cute for a 5-year-old, but not so much for a girl developing breasts whose parent has not yet purchased any kind of bra for her yet. Oh, the horror!
As for my kid, we have our own first-grade-sized challenges to deal with. Here are a few, and why I'm asking the Photo Gods to help me out:
The "Please Don't Let My Kid Have An Illness" Prayer
On the morning of picture day, the first thing I ask the Photo Gods is that my son not wake up with some kind of contagious disease. One, I abhor crap like that because then I have to deal with it, and ostensibly it takes, like, two months to get out of my whole family's system. Two, it does not look pretty, and the photographer is likely to give my son a wide berth when taking photos. Most likely they would take out one of those "long lenses" that you use on safari or something, to just get the shot, for fear of getting whatever my son has.
Ok, Ok. I also don't want my kid to be sick. But you get the idea.
The "Please Don't Let Them Ruin That Nice Shirt" Prayer
I'm not one of those people that dresses my kid up in a 3-piece suit for picture day. I want my kid to look like a kid, and not like a Men's Warehouse Ad. But I do pick out one of his nicer button-downs for picture day, and before I send him to school I give my son specific instructions: "For the love of God, do not rub your nose on your sleeve."
It will likely make no difference. My son uses his shirt for all manners of wiping, including but not limited to: as a napkin, as a tissue, and maybe even as toilet paper. Who knows? Where I see a shirt, he sees a place to deposit things he does not want on his epidermis. Hopefully they can do some kind of "spot treatment" Photoshop?
The "Please Don't Let My Kid Get Pee On Their Pants" Prayer
My son looks cute and presentable most days, but that's because I dress him in dark clothing. That way you can't see any tinkle stains. He's not so unlike most boys his age, who are so excited about the next activity that they kind of rush to finish whatever they are currently doing to get to it. That includes peeing.
My son will barely be finished peeing into the toilet, when something else that has caught his attention makes him turn a complete 180 while he's still doing that last "pee shake." What fun.
The "Please Don't Let Them Look Like They're Pooping" Prayer
Not to boast or anything, but my kid has done a decent amount of modeling for major brands. He knows how to smile like a person. And yet, when a school picture day photographer asks him to smile, it looks like someone has taken two fishhooks to either side of his mouth and pulled them apart while he silently screams. It is painful to watch.
And modeling or no modeling, aren't most kids these days pretty familiar with being photographed? How many billions of pictures are we taking of our children on our iPhones per year? Today's children are poised to become the Selfie Kings and Queens and Insta Stars of the Future (horrifying, I know), so why can't they take one nice damn matte-printed photo with a pleasant blue-grey backdrop for us to send to grandma and grandpa?
As I volunteered at Picture Day, I lost count of the amount of times I heard the photographer mumble "ouch" under his breath as he snapped yet another photo of a kid doing the "constipated smile".
The "Please Let Someone Fix Their Hair" Prayer
Some might say that the cowlick in the photo is the thing that you'll look back on and think is cute years from now. I disagree. My mom and I still look at my kindergarten school photo and wish someone had fixed the hair that had fallen awkwardly on either side of my enormous ears (that were, at the time, too large for my head). I looked like a female version of Spock. Nope. Still not over it.
The "Please Just Have Them Sit Still" Prayer
One of the latest Picture Day Pranks is to "dab" in the middle of either the class photo or during the individual photo while their friends are watching to give them a good laugh. I'm sure no parent needs a memory of this moment forever on their fridge. The photographers are none too pleased, either. I pray that my son (who probably has no idea what a dab is, but will copy the move to go along with whatever) does not cave in to the pressure.
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