Picture Perfect or Perfect Picture

This week at my school we held 3 picture days. With over 200 students under the age of 6, it takes 3 days to get them all done. This use to be such a stressful week for me. I always wanted every parent to be happy with the results. I searched for the best professional photographers, checked their references, made sure they were child friendly and insisted they take plenty of shots to ensure each child had the best. Everything had to be “picture perfect”

I would push my teachers to be sure that faces were clean, hair was combed, shoes were tied, collars fixed and every child had the brightest smile. If a child was upset and wouldn’t smile, I myself stood behind the photographer and did everything from making funny faces, faking a sneeze, jumping jacks to standing on my head (well maybe not that). Whatever it took. Every photo delivered to the parents had to be, again, “picture perfect.”

Through the years, I guess you might say, I have “chilled out”. This however, did not come easy. I spent many years, once I became a parent, stressed every time my children had picture day. I wanted to be sure I picked (usually bought new) the perfect outfit, hair was freshly trimmed, fingernails clipped and shoes were in great shape.
I have evidence of this practice and results of this stress, lots of evidence, in photo albums, in boxes and in drawers throughout my house. Evidence that I had done everything I could to be sure everything was picture perfect. I found picture day to be another stressful moment of early childhood parenting. Another stressful moment that we instill on ourselves.

I watch so many parents of the children in my school going through the same thing. Stressed that everything must be “picture perfect”. They go through the same routine I did over 20 years ago, and some even take a half day off from work to be there to be sure their child’s picture is perfect. (Side note: this never works the way they want it to)

Now, when I find one of those overly stressed parents during picture week at school, I try to share with them my new found “perfect”. It’s not about “picture perfect” it’s about the “perfect picture”.

What’s the difference? I have learned the perfect picture is one that captures a moment of time in your child’s life. There doesn’t have to be new clothes, or fresh haircuts. It’s o.k. if your child wants to hold a toy car, favorite baby doll or your young toddler wants his security blanket to chew on. Let them decide what and who they want to be in their picture. I promise you, when you look back, as cute as those new outfits are, there is nothing more precious then remembering the story behind the picture.

I have had parents tell me they were going to skip picture day for a variety of reasons. Their child fell the day before and had a goose egg on his forehead. A three year old girl decided to give herself a hair cut. The preschooler had a busted lip. They forgot it was picture day and didn’t fight their child when they decided they wanted to wear their pajama shirt to school or they forgot and their child was only wearing school play clothes.

I want them to know the perfect picture is the one that expresses your child’s personality or ignites a memory years from now. A goose egg? I’m sure there is a great story behind that one or who doesn’t have a scissor mishap story, now there is evidence to reminisce about it later.

One of my favorite pictures of my son is when he was about 16 months old, I was unable to be in the room when it was time for my son’s pictures. Somehow the only the photographer captured was him with the perfect tear rolling down his cheek and his bottom lip poking out. Not sure how it happened, but not what I was hoping for, then. When the pictures came back, the owner of the picture company actually called me and apologized. He couldn’t believe that out of all the children in the school, the Director’s child’s was not picture perfect. He offered me discounts, retakes, gift cards, and many please forgive me’s, to make up for what he termed their mistake.

Now my son is 24, and it’s not often I see those tears. Thanks, however, to an inexperienced photographer’s mistake and despite my countless efforts to make everything “picture perfect”, I not only have a special memory but I also have the “Perfect picture”.

Parents, please don’t stress, the pictures will be perfect because of who is in the picture. Your child in any picture is a treasured memory and therefore each is a “perfect picture”. Don’t let the crooked smile, half closed eyes, red punch mustache or even black eye prevent you from enjoying the captured moment. Embrace those photos the most because they will indeed end up being the most “perfect picture”.

Here we go…..

Wow, I never thought I would be writing a blog but here it goes. I’m really not sure what I am doing but what I do know is that after spending thirty years in the field of Early Childhood Development and Education, I have had many conversations with parents, teachers, caregivers, students and more. I have answered questions for first time parents, young mothers, grandparents, foster moms, single dads, anybody and everybody who had a question or concern. I have hugged and comforted tearful moms as they left their 6 week old baby at my center/school for the first time. I’ve assured moms and dads that they are not “that parent”. I’ve told parents my opinion of holding their child back a year before starting kindergarten. I have played the role of counselor, teacher, mediator, judge, financial adviser, manager, student, bus driver, plumber, cook, carpenter, but yet all I ever dreamed of being was an advocate for children. Little did I know it takes multiple hats and roles to do just that.

I’m hoping with this blog to encourage parents, teachers and caregivers to talk about what’s on their mind. I know most of us want to be the best we can be when influencing the children in our lives but I also know that there is so much pressure and fear that you might “screw it up” or “scar them for life”. I want to share some of my many experiences and conversations that might help lighten the stress to be perfect. Honestly, it’s my belief that if your are making your decisions in the best interest of a child, you are doing right by them. It’s not about never making a mistake, it’s about loving the child you are caring for and with that love, a little luck, some supportive friends and/or family and maybe a glass of wine -(or two) you got this. Trust me, you will make it! (And so will the children)

So let’s get talking, what are your concerns, questions comments. Let’s get real and talk about the children in your life and how we, as those that care for them, can survive these early years. Every day or so I will pick a topic but I would love to know what you want to hear about first? Don’t be scared, I always thank parents/teachers when they bring up a question or concern because I can guarantee someone else is thinking the same thing but afraid to bring it up…..so give it to me. Let’s talk. Can’t wait to hear from you.