When my childhood home sold, I ended up with a crate of brown leather-bound photo albums, which condensed my formative years into a spectrum of blurry Polaroids and matte gems from the one-hour Photomart.
Post age 7, it was hard to watch. I was not doing my 80s poofy hair, braceface, pastel lip gloss-self any favors by striking a permanent pose that consisted of: mouth wide open like I was about to be murdered in a low-budget film, hip contorted like I was being yanked off-stage by a giant hook and eyes rolled back zombie-style.
Quite certainly in my mind, I was the most fantastic beast around. I mean, can you even see my jelly shoes? Because in some you actually can, when I am karate-kicking the lens. I hear Mr. Miyagi cringing.
This goes on for years. Years and years. My prom pictures are pretty normal, but there is a solid decade of horror.
These photos accompany my mother’s voice, “Maggie, please just take one nice picture. Just one when you smile like a regular person. I will buy you more jelly shoes! Puhleeease.”
Nope. My brain had a developed a Pavlovian response to the camera. That pose.
I am the reason we never sent out a photo Christmas card.
“Just you wait,” my mom spat over her Canon with the automatic zoomy lens. “I hope your kids never let you take a decent family picture.”
Well, she got her wish.
It says a lot about DNA that my son strikes the identical pose (sans braces and frizzy tidal wave bangs). Every. Darn. Time.
And he’s not alone. I see it replicated everywhere.
Message to children: I implore you for the sake of your 40-year-old self, grant your parents the wish of one serene, lovely, peaceful moment of familial smiling bliss. Then you can go back to your regularly scheduled demon position.
But that crazed pose is not the only similarity I see across the kid gamut. Do you know who is always the one taking the picture? All together now: THE MOM.
Selfie attempts where the face is mostly off screen or (infinitely worse) when the camera magically turns on while staring down at the lens (is this a guess-how-many-chins app?) notwithstanding, how many pictures were deliberately taken of you, hot mama?
Message to other parent: Take a damn picture of Mom. With the kids. When her hair looks amazing. Not when she just wakes up, not before she drinks coffee, not when food is in her teeth, not when baby threw up on her, not when she is yelling at any of you, not when she is asleep standing up. Are you drawing blanks? Ah-ha! Give her a reason to dress up. Then, when she is the shining, clean version of herself, take her picture.
When your children inherit their own boxes (or zip drives) of pictures, they need to see you, their mom, grow along with them. They need to see your smiling, caring, I-know-you-ate-more-candy face. They need to see the woman who devoted and dedicated and sacrificed her mind, body and spirit for ultimate love. They need to see themselves in you.
It takes a village, folks. If you see a mom taking a snap of her kids, offer to get one of the whole shebang. And you know what? Toss back your head, kick off your jelly shoes and put on extra frosted lip gloss. You earned it.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.