I asked my kids last night about School Picture Day. “It’s coming up, you know,” I said. “We should make plans! Want to do that now?”
But instead of the cheers and accolades I expected, my kids groaned. And moaned. And rolled their eyes. And schlumped in their chairs.
“Argrhuffslottle,” they said, or something like it, and I was offended. Offended, I tell you, because they were busy griping while I wanted major mommy props for thinking ahead. For planning. For being on top of the school schedule for once. But is that what I got? Noooooooo. I got argrhuffslottle from their ungrateful little selves. And schlumping. LOTS of schlumping down in chairs.
“What’s wrong with Picture Day?” I asked. And I followed that with a powerful, “I always LOVED Picture Day,” knowing my experience as a child is always paramount in their thoughts and super relevant to their experience. I am here to tell you, though, you should not ask questions unless you want to hear the answer, because my kids told me exactly what’s wrong with Picture Day, and apparently it’s me.
I am what’s wrong with Picture Day, they said, and they told it like this:
“See, Mom, you always make us wear stuff we don’t like very much.”
I do not.
“Sometimes it itches.”
Like a tiny bit of itching in order to LOOK NICE ONE DAY A YEAR is a huge sacrifice.
“Yeah, Mom. We never get to wear our favorite shirts just because they’re stained.”
Well, of course I can’t let you wear something dirty to Picture Day. I mean, GEEZ.
“And you make us not play at recess that day.”
That’s not even a little bit true!
“It IS true, Mom. You tell us not to play at recess very hard ’cause we’ll mess up our hair.”
Oh. Yeah… I do say that…
“Sometimes, Mom,” they concluded, “we just want to look how we like to look. Even in pictures.”
And then they delivered the clincher, “How come you don’t like the things we choose?”
Well… argrhuffslottle. And ppffffttttt.
I was stumped, truth be told. Dumbfounded. I had no idea what to say to them, really. How come I don’t like the things they choose? Is that the message I’ve been sending them?
But when I thought about it — actually thought about it hard — I had to conclude it is. That’s exactly the message I’ve been sending my kids, and I don’t like it. Not at all.
It turns out, I made my kids’ School Picture Days a way for ME to express MYself; kids coiffed the way I like, outfits picked with my brand of parental precision, stains and tears and foibles erased for a day to have a record that reflects what I like and who I am, and, if I’m going to do a ruthless inventory of why I’ve done that, I have to confess I’ve used Picture Day as a way to measure my success as a mama; as though I’m saying, “Sure, I don’t have my poo together the other days, but I can pull it together for Picture Day, momrades! See??” Or, “I can send my children to school — clean — for one day a year, teachers!”
Here’s the thing I keep thinking about over and over (and over and over) today: we say we want our kids to be authentically themselves. We encourage them to be the people they were uniquely created to be. We beg our kids to think, to be confident and bold, and to follow their hearts. We tell them they’re the authors of their own stories, and that we need their stories in our world. We encourage our kids to stand up for what they believe — to stand up for kindness and for each other — starting in Kindergarten and even in Preschool, but then we don’t allow them to choose the outward expression of who they are inside; not when it’s going to be documented for posterity, anyway. Not when it’s going in the record books! Not when we’ll look back at these pictures which define their childhood school experience. I guess it just seems a little… off… to me when I think about it that way. A little off, and a tiny bit sad, this mixed message I send.
So I have this crazy idea, parents.
This CRAZY, RADICAL idea, and now I’m wondering if anyone out there is crazy enough to join me.
I’m calling it, “Let’s let the kids look however they want for school picture day.” And, by that, I mean however they want. Like, hair however they want, and clothes however they want; even jelly on their faces if they want.
Look; I don’t want to be extreme or dramatic or anything here, it’s just, oh my gosh, you guys. Oh my gosh! I’m pretty sure I’m onto something.
Instead of a School Picture Day about me, my kids can have a School Picture Day about them. A moment in time that captures exactly who they are, as they choose to be, and to receive the message from their mama — loud and clear — that that’s what I want on record.
Of course, if we do this, our kids’ pictures may look less like this…
… and a little more like this.
A little less like this…
… and a little more like this.
Which, let’s be honest, is the greatest school picture of all time, anyway. ALL TIME. And my personal favorite.
Of course, the BONUS in all this is we don’t have to do JACK SQUAT for Picture Day this year. We don’t have to do JACK, and we can do nothing NOBLY. For a GOOD CAUSE. Because we’re being RAD PARENTS who CARE MORE ABOUT OUR KIDS THAN OURSELVES. It’s a win/win, friends. A win/win, I tell you!
So, I’m on a need to know here, parents. What do you think? Too crazy to do? Or are you doing it with me??