My daughter started preschool this fall. This means my fridge is now covered with various art projects, daily I am regaled with stories about who did what to whom and what the teacher said, and I was greeted with my very first informational letter about picture day.
My first thought when this form came across my path was, When did my daughter get old enough to go to school and have school pictures taken?
My second thought was, What is she going to wear for picture day, and how will I do her hair?
The thought only stayed with me a moment because I remembered a lesson I try to teach my children: Be yourself. Always. No matter what others say, what others think, what others believe — be true to who you are on the inside.
I know many of us do everything we can to instill this idea in our children because we want them to grow up to be who they are rather than who others think they should be.
This brought me to my third thought which was, Then why am I trying to make her look perfect for picture day?
Before she even knew that picture day existed, I was already plotting out her outfit and her hair and planning a crumb free breakfast so she wouldn’t run the risk of soiling her clothes before the picture was taken. I wanted her to be pristine and impeccably coiffed for her very first school pictures because that’s what’s expected, right? That’s what we parents have been doing for generations. We pick out their clothes, we style their hair, we make them look presentable for the camera. After all, everyone will see these pictures. Their teachers, friends, and family, for years and years and years to come. They will exist forever and we want our kids to look put together.
And while this is what’s expected and normalized and even understandable, I’m choosing to be true to the lesson I mentioned earlier, the lesson about staying true to who they are.
That means for picture day, my daughter, and next year my son, can pick their own outfits. If she wants to wear a striped dress with a polka dot sweater and a rainbow headband, so be it. If her hair has the wind-blown look because she was playing hard at recess, that’s cool. If she’s got a bruise from roughhousing with her brother, ain’t nothing I can do about it. That’s what a 4-year-old looks like sometimes.
I don’t care if she doesn’t look beauty-pageant-perfect in her school pictures because I want her to look in pictures the way she looks every day. That’s how I want to look back and remember her — as the little girl whose hair is always a bit disheveled, who makes her own fashion choices, who plays hard and loves harder.
She doesn’t have to be immaculate for her school pictures because she is 4, and 4-year-olds are not immaculate. We all know this.
I want my children to grow up not giving a flying fig what people think about how they look or dress or do their hair, and that lesson starts at home. And that lesson should be for every day of their lives — not every day except picture day. The greatest thing about picture day is being able to look back in 10, 15, or 20 years, and look upon a girl who shined from the inside, even if her outfit didn’t match.