Smile and Say “Moo!”

Hide your checkbook, grab your children, and hide in the closet. It’s PICTURE DAY!! (cue scary music.)

One of the most incomprehensible facts of the universe (to me at least) is how with all of our vast technology we can’t manage to take a decent school picture of a child.  I dread picture day, because it causes me to battle two of my most basic instincts.

First, I love pictures–especially pictures of my children.  I have literally thousands of them.  The dark side of that love is that I cannot stand to think that there are pictures of my kids out in the world somewhere that I don’t have.  True Story: I took the kids to a portrait studio once many years ago, and my daughter cried through the whole thing.  She would not pose, she would not smile, period.  My son tried to cooperate, but the daughter was definitely bumming him out.  So when I went back to see the packages and decide what to buy, I was confronted with a bunch of pictures of my daughter either frowning like Hank Williams Jr. on Monday night or outright crying, and my son looking like he was battling a severe toothache. So of course I did the only reasonable thing.

I bought a package.

Well, in my defense, it was a cheap(ish) package.  I couldn’t stand it.  I had to buy some.  Even the picture lady sort of looked at me like maybe I’d been spending too much time in the paint department at Lowe’s, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Now, the other instinct on the line on picture day is my desire to stop wasting money.  Why on earth would anyone pay good  money for those pictures?  And, to make the situation even more disgusting, they no longer provide “proofs” (remember?) for you to look at before you buy.  You have to make your selections and have your money at school on picture day, or you don’t get any pictures.  Also, the prices just keep going up.  I suspect this is a key factor to our declining economy–higher prices for poorer quality. But thinking about that too much makes my head hurt.

The most tragic thing is that my daughter is quite capable of producing good pictures.  I have unlimited evidence to support this statement. Consider the following:

I have hundreds more like this that span the years and are just dripping with cuteness.  She is really quite the ham, and will pose in a silly pose or grin for the camera.

Then picture day rolls around and I get something like this:

(This is not my child ((I don’t think)) but still a pretty good representation.)

I think part of the problem is that the photographer is under a lot of pressure.  Whoever that poor soul is has my sympathy.  He has to snap a picture of hundreds of kids in a few short hours, and I’m sure by the time the 100th or so kid herds through, he or she isn’t even seeing the kid.  The teacher could plop, I don’t know, a hand puppet onto that little stool and the photographer would just say, “Smile,” and then click, then “Next, please.”  Those poor kids are just marched through like little cows with gel in their hair.  I think eventually, to raise profit margins, studios will start hiring the lady who takes your picture at the DMV.  Well, I don’t know.  I’m not sure she moves fast enough.  Wait! I know! How about if they just install a little switch on the stool, and when the kids sit down, they will activate the switch, and their picture will automatically be taken. No photographer needed!

Judging from my parent’s yearbooks, I can at least console myself that this isn’t a new problem.

But this year, I did it.  I finally did it.  I sent my daughter to school on picture day without her money or her envelope.  I didn’t order pictures.  There will be a school picture out there that I don’t have.  I’m fine with that.  Really.  I’m sure it’s going to be a bad picture, anyway. Right? Right?!

Oh hell.  I need to go call the school.

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