A Rite of Passage

http://www.motherleia.com/rite-of-passageClose your eyes and think of your first school picture.

Do you remember how proud you were, sitting on that hard little stool, a dark blue or bland beige background behind you, everyone’s eyes on you as the photographer beseeches: SMILE!

When you view the photo weeks later, your parents oohing and ahhing, you wonder: is that what I look like? school picture, picture day

And, then you think: That’s not a smile. That’s the look I give when I stub my toe, or when my brother/sister whacks me in the arm when mom isn’t looking.

But, suddenly, in the wink of an eye, it’s the next year and time for another school picture. This time, you tell yourself, I’m going to smile and look right into the camera and come out of there with a true representation of ME! (Well, maybe when you were in 2nd or 3rd grade you didn’t use the big word: representation. But you get the gist.) 

 school picture, picture dayYears later, when your parents spread around your school pictures for your college boyfriend/girlfriend and anyone else in the world to view, you grimace. What a dork I was.

When you’re 20, and even when you’re 30, or worse, 40 and now your kids are laughing at your school picture, you think wistfully: “If only I could skip back in time and re-do that 1st grade school picture ….”school picture day

My daughter hated her school pictures, yet she blithely sends her kids off two weeks ago for theirs: pre-school, 1st grade, and 3rd grade. The two boys, 4 and 7, are dressed in button-down shirts and khakis. The 8-year-old girl has freshly shampooed hair, a shiny barrette that matches her tangerine shift, and sweet peach earrings in her newly pierced ears.

Not knowing the immense importance of that day, I pick up the middle grandson from school in the afternoon for some special time alone with Madre.

He hops into the car and blurts out enthusiastically. “Today was Picture Day!”

Hmm, I think suspiciously. What’s he so cheerful about? This grandson usually strides to the beat of his own drum.

“How’d it go?” I offer.

“Wellll,” the 7-year-old peers at me as if wondering if he dare tell me all.

He dares: “Mom had me all dressed up with a fancy shirt and stuff, but I wanted to show a better reflection of myself.” (Yes, those are the exact words he uses.)

I look at the boy in my rearview mirror, thinking, “uh oh.”

“So, I wore my shark t-shirt instead, and pinned on my Sheriff’s badge.”

I admit, I want to shout out, “Good for you!” He’s so proud of himself.

But I also wonder if I should call my daughter and warn her. She is NOT going to be delighted about his rebellious school picture.

school picture dayI choose my grandson’s side, and keep my lips sealed.

Yesterday, daughter texts me a photo of her middle child’s just-arrived school photo with a few exclamation marks and wide-eyed emoticons.http://www.iemoji.com/view/emoji/9/smileys-people/flushed-facehttp://www.iemoji.com/view/emoji/9/smileys-people/flushed-facehttp://www.iemoji.com/view/emoji/9/smileys-people/flushed-face

I just chuckle and whisper, “Hooray – here’s one kid who will love his school picture when he grows up.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson, be yourself



108 thoughts on “A Rite of Passage

  1. Wonderful post, Pam. Your grandson sounds like a wonderful kid–and I love his photo! I hope your daughter does, too.
    One of my daughters–fifth and/or sixth grade–wore two headbands all the time. One over her hair, like one does to hold back hair, and the other across her forehead. She also wore two different colored socks. I loved her desire to be an individual and to stand up for herself and for others. (Plus, I never had to worry about matching her socks.):)

  2. This is how I started my day by reading your post! It was refreshing and insightful!! Children begin to express themselves even at a young age and good for them!!!! I remember my son insisting on wearing the same outfit to nursery school to the point I had to tell the teachers they are washed every day when he gets home. He was only 4!!! I’m sure your daughter wasn’t happy but your grandson was!! 😊😊😊😊

    • Thank you for starting your day with me, Karen. Or at least with my little flash of life. I had to laugh about you insisting to your son’s teachers that his clothes were washed every day. Oh, what our kids put us through!!

  3. Very cute! Great post! I remember when my mother made me wear a bobby pin in my hair for my third grade picture. My bangs were growing out and I guess that’s what you did – I was not happy, but I didn’t think to take it out even though it looked terrible! With my kids (all boys), I gave up the fight to get them to wear something nice for their pictures…after many battles. Now they wear whatever shirt they want and we laugh about it. Some years have been good, others haven’t, but I’m happier not fighting about it.

    • I think knowing when to give up the battle is a good thing for moms. Not sure my daughter is ever going to give up though; it’s fun watching each of her kids (two boys, one girl) react in different ways to her/his parents’ expectations. I must admit, it’s more fun as a grandparent than when in the middle of it as a parent! 😉

  4. Oh that face….he’s adorable, Pam! He looks so happy. I love the Jaws t-shirt too! I never liked my school photos, or any photos for that matter. One of my least favorite was my third grade photo. I had the Carol Brady (Brady Bunch) hairdo. LOL!

    • Ohhhh, looking at those old school photos now takes us right back to the mortification we felt, doesn’t it? You didn’t like your hairdo – I wanted straight hair so much. I had to contend with curls and waves that never behaved. Particularly not during school picture day!!!

  5. Good morning Pam, that brought back a pleasant memory! My middle son decided he wouldn’t tell me when it was picture day. Boy was I surprised when he brought the picture home. It was his best school picture ever. He wore a tee shirt and his hair was messy. But that was him…. I still laugh about it.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    • Thanks, Mary. I think a rather ferocious independent spirit will keep this grandson on his toes…and everyone else’s…. that’s for sure! Thanks for commenting – great seeing you here. xo

  6. What a great quote, Pam 🙂 I have to say, the only thing I remember about having my picture taken is the uncomfortable feeling having to force a smile because oft times you can see it’s not natural. I hate the school pics for that reason, especially since, at that time, hairstyles weren’t all that becoming lol But I do like seeing the progression of a kid’s life, especially my son’s. It’s history 🙂

    • So true that as parents it’s fun to see our little beings grow up with each year’s school picture. A bit depressing, though, when we look back and realize how darn fast that happened…

      • You said it, Pam. My son and daughter-in-law’s anniversary just passed and we can’t believe it’s been 4 years since their wedding and Hurricane Sandy (which made it an incredibly stressful 10 days prior, with it being cancelled, then put back on, plane flights cancelled, all kinds of stuff). The four years have passed so quickly, they are moving into a house in a few weeks and plan on starting the baby-making process in a few months! lol

  7. So funny! A friend’s son made a grimace in his high school senior picture. (It was hysterical.) Yep, the one that goes in the yearbook and all over. She was initially annoyed but accepted that that’s who he is. He graduated from college and is fairly normal now.

  8. Pamela, truly, this little apple didn’t fall far from the grandma tree, just earlier! Way to go kid and keep the broad smile every time you jettison the expectations of others so you are who you are. Your Madre is the good role model in such matters.

    • Oh, I hope so Doug. I hope I’m a role model for following your own expectations, and not that of others. The role model of doing what’s right for YOU, not for others. And the role model of not caring about the whispers behind your back, but instead, to just laugh and keep going. xo

  9. The quote you offer from Emerson complements the message in your post so perfectly, Pamela! And the photo of your grandson is the glue that keeps it together 🙂 From those days long ago (much longer than I care to recall), I remember less about my facial expressions and more on the clothes that I was asked to wear – some sort of fashionably acceptable combination of plaid and suede. I shudder just thinking about it. It is amazing, is it not, how those smiles become much more natural when we are allowed to “dress” how we want – both inside and out? Love this message and love this post – well done, and thanks for the reminder to smile from the inside out no matter whether your 7 or 77 🙂

    • “Some sort of fashionably acceptable combination of plaid and suede.” Oh my gosh, I’m still laughing at your phrase. Reminds me of when my daughter saw a photo of me from high school and asked me, “Mom, how COULD you dress like that?” Well, that’s the way we ALL dressed. But I guess that’s no excuse, is it. 🙂
      I love quoting Ralph Waldo. I live in his territory now and visit his home where he wrote and taught and lived. He was a man ahead of his time …. like my grandson, I think. 🙂

  10. “I wanted to show a better reflection of myself.”—Haha, I love that so much. And what a great pic he ended up with. No conformity for this guy!

    Hope you’re doing well, Pam, and that fall is treating you well so far. 🙂

  11. oh pam…loved this sweet story!!! it made me think of the horrible pictures that I
    had taken–one in which my bone straight hair all wild, fat curls from my aunt hazel’s
    permanent!!!! thank heavens it WASN’T ‘permanent’!!! LOL
    your grandson is a wonderfully spirited little man!!! oh the places he will go….
    thx for the great memories it conjured up for us all!!!!

  12. Oh I love this post Pam, and that shark sheriff picture is utterly adorable!!! I love that Emerson quote, one of my faves…and the epitome of easily said and NOT so easily done, but hey – we can aspire 😉 Your young grandson, it would seem though, is already well on his way! Love and hugs, Harula x

    • This grandson has decided that sharks are his ‘thing,’ so he only wears t-shirts that have some kind of shark on it. Of course, his mom is helping him in this endeavor. She just hadn’t planned on ‘the shark’ being part of his school picture. 🙂

  13. Ha ha ha. I love the shark tee and the sheriff’s badge. Wonderful, Pam. Were the others your school photos? My brothers and I have an album full of horrible school pictures, and I have one for my daughter. They’re so funny to look at now. Bug eyes, weird smiles, bed-head, sour mopes, the whole gamut. Great post!

    • Hmmm, I’d love to see those school pictures of you, Diana. Reminds me of high school reunions, where they display 3rd grade photos of everyone, and you have to guess which photo matches each adult. In this blog, the black and white one is me; the other ones are my son and daughter. Hopefully they’ll never get to this post – they might not talk to me again for awhile. :-0

  14. I do not remember my school picture days in the first grade, but I do remember wearing a blue beaded necklace in the 3rd grade and my mom didn’t know until we got the pics back and she was mortified! “OMG! I didn’t know you wore those on PICTURE DAY!!” LOL! They were tacky little blue beads, but hey, I liked them. I do remember getting into a hellacious fight with my mother the morning of 5th grade pics and I ended up wearing a navy dress!! UGH! I hated dresses!! *still do* and you can see in my pics I am NOT happy about the dress! But after that?? I got to wear whatever I wanted on picture day! he he! Go grandson! Rock on little man!! 😀

    • Your school picture stories say so much about your personality, Courtney: fierce, stubborn, independent, and oh-so-wonderful. Isn’t it amazing, how we can remember those ‘little fights’ with our parents as we struggled to be who we were?

  15. The eyes never lie at any age. And I would keep my eye on that middle grand-son – Ha! He’s going places. By the way, did you know that the eye is one aspect of the anatomy that is full size at birth? At least that’s what my son told me.

    I say “Aye” to this post, mah-vel-ous!

    • That’s fascinating – I did NOT know that about the eye. It’s rather magical and mystical, isn’t it, that our eyes arrive ready and able to show us the world – to bring us ‘eye-sight,’ so to speak. Thanks for sharing that info, Marian (and thank your son!).

  16. I bet your daughter is secretly proud of the photograph too. After all, it is her son and she perhaps remembers the horrors of having hers done. Mayhap your granddaughter had hers taken perfectly.
    Well done your grandson for his individuality, I wonder where he could have got that from Pamela ???
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • I can only hope that my grandson does take after me in the independence, free-spirit, creative side. Perhaps that’s why we enjoy each other’s company so much! xoxoxoxmanyhugsxoxoxox

  17. Good on your grandson! Most of school here in Australia have school uniforms so children wouldn’t be able to make a similar choice. The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a perfect accompaniment to the post. 🙂

  18. What an amazing grandson and wow, he knows what life is about already! To think and dare be himself – against even his mother’s wishes. I am so impressed and cheering for him! Fantastic quote and one I’ve never come across before – one for my quote book! Thank you so much for sharing, Pamela – shows us that the most important lessons are those outside the classroom whatever your age.

    • This grandson opens my mind to places I’d never thought of going. And he’s only 7! I make sure to play checkers with him lots, because the conversation that results from the time together is eye-opening. :-0 Thanks much for your comments, Annika. xo

  19. Good for him for dressing exactly as he wanted to for his class picture! I think he will always look back on that with nostalgia rather than regret. When my daughter was in third grade, she was told she could bring a “prop” for their picture if she wanted to. Much to my dismay, she choose a friend’s ugly stuffed pig. But now, whenever I look at the photo, I smile.

    • Oh, I love this story. A ‘prop’ is a fun, but perhaps difficult suggestion to a child about to have his/her picture taken. Who knows what he/she might bring? What do you think you’d have brought in your third grade? I’d discovered books by then, so my guess is I’d have a pile with me, on my lap. 🙂

    • “Personality” is good to have when an adult, but a bit more difficult when a child and everyone aims for conformity, you know? I worry a bit about how my little grand-sheriff might fare in school. Hopefully he’ll always have his sheriff’s badge to help him battle his detractors.

  20. Oh this was funny. You were not a dork- really a cutie pie. I hated school pics and have no idea where they are. In fact I have lost things from lonmg ago, packed away in boxes and storage bins and none of them or marked.

    But you have one smart grandson. Love his independence. He’ll go far some day.

  21. That is so precious. That young man is going to be a leader not a follower. Good for him and drop breaths for you daughter. I had one of these rebels myself. Not always easy to parent but a joy to watch them believe in who they are.

Love to hear your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s