Parenting Stories: Photoshopping Childhood


I recently bought one of those online group coupons for a portrait sitting of my boys. I am horrible about getting their pictures taken and decided it would be a good opportunity for me to get motivated on the cheap. Of course, I sat on my can for too long and it had almost expired when I finally set my appointment. But, don’t fear! I was a good mom, got it set and even ironed their clothes.

The morning of our appointment I was getting ready and appreciating how well my boys were playing together in their room. They were laughing and no one screamed, cried or pulled out a light saber. It was a good morning. Our appointment was in 45 minutes and I was just finishing up when my older boy walked in and asked if I wanted to see his cat. “Sure!” I responded. That was when my younger son glided happily in with a perfectly drawn kitty face on him. Whiskers and all. “Emmett,” I asked slowly, “…did you use the permanent markers for that?” His smile began to fade. “Uh…I think maybe,” he squeaked.

I began to laugh hysterically. It was ill-timed and chaotic but it was also pretty hilarious. I knew that it was too late to reschedule because my coupon was nearly expired and we had trouble finding an appointment as it was. In the end, I was able to get the marker off of Nate’s face after calling my sister-in-law and trying her hairspray suggestion. Her other suggestion, though, surprised me. “They can just Photoshop that stuff out now if you can’t get it off.”

I had no idea! Of course, I’m aware that Photoshop exists but I never realized it was used on a regular basis for stuff like this. My childhood was different. One of my parents’ favorite school pictures of me is a preschool one where I am showing off a huge rug burn all the way down my nose. I have no memory of it but evidently my older brother had dragged me across the floor for a while and left a nice reminder of it on my face. It is ugly and funny looking but it is also hilarious and captures a memory. Not a perfect photo, but a great photo. There’s a difference.

Now, it seems, we won’t even allow those moments to be captured. In our quest for perfect kids, we only want beautiful snapshots of their lives. We won’t even allow ourselves to remember the imperfections. No zits allowed. We can say it’s for them and that might be true for kids who are older but for the younger ones, it’s more about us than them. We can’t allow them to seem imperfect because that would mean that we aren’t perfect either.

This all seems well and good on paper but my resolution was put to the test last week when my 7-year-old got a huge scratch above his eye two days before picture day. He was worried about it and pretty upset about the picture looking ugly. I looked at his form as I wrote the check and saw a way out. There was a box you could check if you wanted to pay extra for Photoshopping. I eyed it for a long time and then I left it blank. Instead, I called my mom and asked her if she could bring my old preschool photo with them when they visit next week. I want my son to see it and we can laugh together. After all, childhood isn’t always supposed to be perfect but it is pretty great.

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