It was picture day at my kids’ school this week. We spent the beginning of the week making sure we had everything ready for the big day. Much to their dismay, the boys got haircuts. After almost picking out the exact same shirts as last year’s picture day outfits, we finally settled on shirts that were nice enough yet still comfortable enough to be worn the entire day. I eased up this year and allowed the boys to wear whatever they wanted for shorts since that part of their outfit doesn’t make it in the picture. My daughter looks forward to picture day because it’s one of the few days of the year when I offer to curl her hair.
Yes, my kids were looking sharp when they left the house for picture day—at least from the waist up. My kids tend to be pretty photogenic so I am expecting that they took pretty good pictures. In fact, each year when we receive their pictures back we are always amazed at how great they look. We cannot help but look at the 8x10s and marvel at our good-looking children. They look so sweet and innocent in those school pictures. Actually, more recently, we’ve begun to notice how mature and grown up they’ve become. While these pictures do a great job of showing missing baby teeth and new adult teeth or new hairstyles, they fail to capture so much.
It’s easy to look at these perfectly posed pictures and forget about all the less than perfect moments that accompanied that school year, not to mention those that accompany this specific day.
A few years ago I was trying to take a perfectly posed first-day-of-preschool picture of my younger two children. My daughter did not want to participate at all. My son was trying to be helpful, but she was having none of it. I kept taking pictures on the off chance I would get a keeper. Finally, she cheered up enough to get one good picture. When I went to post the picture to Facebook I had a decision to make. I could post the one good picture and pretend all the other pictures didn’t exist, or I could share how our morning really went. I looked through the pictures and found a series of pictures that ended up telling a very cute story of the morning.
I could have deleted all those pictures. I could have just kept the last picture. A decade from now I wouldn’t have remembered her meltdown. Looking at the last picture I would have just seen this cute little preschool girl ready for her first day. While the last picture is cute, the four pictures before that are so much better. They tell a story of a helpful brother and a sad sister. Perfectly posed pictures don’t always get that.
As a chronic perfectionist, I’m always seeking the perfect picture. Every occasion is marked with a picture. It always takes about 50 pictures to get the right one. Over time, I’ve noticed that while it’s great to have pictures for all these events and milestones, it doesn’t always matter if everyone is smiling or looking at the camera. The picture doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be good.
If I look back on some of my favorite pictures of my family, they aren’t the perfectly posed pictures. Sure, those are beautiful and look great on Christmas cards, but my favorite pictures of my kids are when I have captured them in a real moment. It’s those real moments, happy or sad, that I cherish the most. Because life is like pictures; it doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be good.