For a parent, there’s only one other day as dreaded as Halloween, and that’s School Picture Day.
I know are probably thinking, What could be more terrifying than having to sew the perfect Minecraft Enderman outfit in time for the Halloween candy crush, only to be followed by red dye psychosis and a visit to sugar crash hell?
Halloween, meet School Picture Day.
Picture day is usually the fourth or fifth day of school, when children are still struggling to get out of bed early and choke down cereal at ungodly hours of the morning. Parents are writing to-do lists for their to-lists as they field back-to-school emails, teacher classroom requests, kids’ lunches, and yell at their children for the eighty-seventh time to brush their teeth, eat their breakfast, and get dressed.
So to further complicate the struggle of getting your offspring ready for school, now you have to get them all pretty and handsome and out the door before they spill cereal milk all over their fancy picture clothes. Which brings me to my daughter’s hair.
My daughter’s tresses are much like her personality: unruly, stubborn, and full of potential! Without attention they form dreadlocks, as they do every night during her sleep. Brushing them only makes her hair frizz up like a dandelion weed. But with love they can transform into the perfect victory curls.
So being Picture Day and all, I let her choose between a bath or shower, so I can wash, condition, and comb out her hair. She just woke up, so naturally she thinks this is a terrible idea. I go through the list of incentives: gum, gummies, pick out the song in the car… One sticks and I don’t have to resort to more threats. After all, I’m starting to sound like the wicked stepmother.
After running her a bath, washing her hair, and combing it out, it’s time to get dressed. Of course she doesn’t like her clothes. She wants to wear her Elsa dress instead! More incentives and threats ensue. For what return? A cute little picture I can stick on my fridge.
Sure, it might just be a small little picture. But what the DINKs don’t understand is that this picture represents my energy, effort, patience, and good parenting skills — all things that don’t come naturally to me, and have taken many years to hone. Now every time I look at this picture of my daughter and her perfect Shirley Temple curls in her miraculously unstained pink dress, I feel like a damned superhero.
This is why so many parents snap pictures of their children and post them online. If you could only see the work that went into getting them dressed, keeping them clean, feeding them, getting them out the door, and maintaining their health, you would totally understand.
Do you think it’s by accident that they still have color in their cheeks? That is from years of disciplined reading and listening to parenting books, articles, and podcasts; teaching myself how to cook and coax my children to eat a balanced diet, to get decent sleep at night, to exercise in nature, all to lovingly and effectively persuade these impulsive, opinionated little humans to do what is best for them.
And when it all works out of course I’m going to take a picture! Not only are my children still living, they are thriving! And here, ladies and gentlemen, is your proof. You see, photos of my children looking healthy and doing healthy things is often the only documentation of my success in raising them.
As a parent, we don’t ever close a sale, or pass a test, or get a raise, or a good evaluation, that says “Hey, Mom you’re doing OK!” Parenting is the biggest slog imaginable. Every day, every month, every year that goes by, how do we measure our success? Where is the evidence?
So I take photos of my kids. Photos that one day might actually turn into photo albums, to remind me that I gave it my all as a parent, I took my kids to the beach, we picked blueberries in the rainforest, we made plays (literacy, y’all!). I took them to concerts of all genres, made art!
The proof, as they say, is in the Insta-update. Or whatever.
Go, parents! Keep posting those awesome photos. Your kids look great.