I find great joy flipping through the pages of stacks of photo albums containing the colorful story of my now grown children’s lives beginning in preschool all the way through college graduation. This stack of albums, with each child’s yearly photo, is such a blessing to me. I can, in my empty nest state of being, revisit the photos and memories as often as I like. In this process, I thank the Lord for the beautiful blessings that he bestowed upon Bill and me by allowing us to raise three of His precious gifts. You see, in each of their photographs, a story of who they were in that particular moment in time is captured through the lens of a photographer pushing a shutter button. In an instance, the moment is frozen and I will always be able to review who my children were at that stage in their lives held in a single still shot, mounted neatly on the page of a book.
Beginning with my oldest daughter Lauren’s first preschool photo, it is evident that she had super curly, very unruly hair. For her photo, her preschool teacher thought it necessary to brush Lauren’s tight ringlets minutes before the photographer asked Lauren to sit on the stool and say, “cheese”. Because her teacher did not have experience with naturally curly hair, she did not realize that running a brush through the curls would only make them expand into a very large mass of frizz resembling a light socket mishap. This photo is a true reminder of all of Lauren’s crazy hair days and freckled face follies, which match her personality so perfectly. To this day, the preschool photo is one of my favorite reminders of Lauren. The Lord knew she would need spunky hair and freckles to help her become a very fun-loving mom of four.
I opened our middle daughter Katherine’s album. Her sweet dress looked a bit disheveled and her big pink hair bow is catawampus on the side of her blonde head. It looked as though her photo was taken later in the day after she consumed a chocolate cookie and red punch. Katherine is the fashion queen in our family today and would not be found to have a red punch mustache in any recent photo – in fact; she probably doesn’t drink red punch for fear of it staining her mouth. I love this photo because it is a great reminder of a foot loose child with chocolate and red punch on her face that grew into a quiet, well put-together, lover of fashion, and anything artsy, creative mom of three boys.
Oh, my one and only man-child. Ryan’s preschool photo is dear to me because the photographer captured the mischief in his blue eyes. When I look at his photo, I am reminded that Ryan would not allow me to comb his hair before school on picture day – he didn’t have time for that. He also pitched a fit because he wanted to wear a wrinkled shirt instead of the one I had ironed for his photo. Being the third child, and very strong willed, Ryan usually got away with such issues as I chose to pick my battles with him. His photo is a treasure because I am able to relish in the fact that Ryan’s personality that I fought hard against during his early years, has developed into a strong character trait. He solved his own hair issue by always keeping it cut short. He is a handsome young man who is married now with a career and is a strong leader among his peers.
Preschool photos that mark a passage of dependence, innocence, age, development, personality, and a much simpler time in the world are tucked back into the cabinet for a later day when I want to quietly ponder the goodness of our Creator. Putting away my children’s albums, I reflected on the change in our era. We live in a society that demands perfection – not in the eyes of God but through the eyes of man.
I learned yesterday that the preschool where my daughter’s children attend, hired a photographer who under his own distasteful discretion, “edits” or “photo shops” what he deems to be imperfect about each child. I imagine in my grandmotherly indignation that this photographer sits on a throne wielding a scepter and rules where the wild things are. My mind leads me to believe he emits flames from his tongue as he flashes large, pointed, gnashing teeth. Sitting on his throne, he edits away at each innocent child’s image. In his superiority, he has an ideal child image in mind. As he chips, chips, chips away, red, yellow, black, and white all become one color, and each child takes on a perceived perfectly created image. After all, this photographer has the power to create the most offensive perfect photo – a click of the mouse, a backspace here, a backspace there, and whah-lah!
Consequently, my grandsons, ages eighteen months and three years, received photos of themselves that did not resemble their God-given unique characteristics. The older of the two had the creases removed from his cheeks and around his eyes that are a very strong trait on his father’s side of the family. The second grandson has a very distinct strawberry birthmark on his little cheek. He has a pinker complexion with strawberry blonde hair. The photographer chose to remove the pink pigment from his skin and also removed his birthmark from his cheek. Neither of the boys looked like the boys that we know and love.
I am stunned today as I think about the message that is being sent and received on all fronts in life. One must have a perfect house, perfect spouse, perfect car, perfect address, perfect job, perfect well-bred pets, perfect health, perfect wealth, and now, perfect preschool photos that do not even resemble the child. Is it any wonder that our eighteen year olds struggle with their self-image when we send a school photo home with an eighteen month old edited to resemble the world’s definition of perfection? I despairingly wonder about the children with more evident birth defects. How must these parents feel who struggle daily to have their children accepted and loved? I cringe to put myself in the position of my daughter and son-in-law who upon receiving preschool photos, had their own impressions of their children shattered based on one photographer’s ideal image.
Reopening the cabinet and once again pulling my old album out, I wrapped my arms around it and pulled it to my chest thanking God for my imperfect house, imperfect spouse, imperfect car, imperfect address, imperfect job, imperfect pets, imperfect health, imperfect wealth, and my most cherished imperfect preschool photos that serve to remind me of my PERFECT gifts, created in His own image that are bestowed upon me.
Genesis 1:27 – “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
1 Samuel 16:7 – “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”