Every year, we get the envelope of pictures, and it’s a total crapshoot. This year was no different.
Our 11-year-old son brought home his school pictures, and before I saw them, he said, “Mom, these might be the best pictures of me smiling...ever.”
He was right. All striped shirt, plaid shorts and suspenders of him. With his skinny arms and hands in his pockets, he is a kid most comfortable in his own skin. And his smile is huge.
My 14-year-old daughter’s pictures are awesome – no half shirt, bare midriff, too short skirt. I wondered if she forgot it was picture day?
Our oldest son, age 15, lost the check for his pictures, so I ordered them online, after the fact. Thanks, buddy.
I know that some parents get pretty uptight about pictures – if they come out bad, they don’t buy them. I always buy them. I don’t buy a mug or a mouse pad with my kid’s picture on it, but I always buy the package of photos – and send them to my six siblings, parents and in-laws. Always.
The year I realized I made my oldest wear sweater vests for five straight years? Bought them.
The three years my daughter didn’t really smile? Yep got ‘em.
Every year, on the Friday night of the week the pictures arrive, I get the frames off the wall and put the new ones in. And every year, I bawl like a baby just seeing how they’ve all grown.
I keep all the previous years’ pictures behind the most current one. My mom did this for the seven of her kids, so I do it, too. When my oldest (the one who lost the check) asks why we need new pictures since he hasn’t changed from last year, I see the proof that they’ve all changed.
That little boy who wasn’t always sure how to smile in his photo grew to be a tween, survived two years of braces, and is now a young man who’s decided not to smile in photos because he thinks it makes him look tougher. It doesn’t. It makes him look like he’d rather be somewhere else. Maybe so, but I’ve got him for two more years.
And I can feel that time slipping through my fingers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not prepping my basement for my kids to return home after college, or during. I’m convinced kids get to be teenagers before they move out, so parents can let them go – and we should.
The reality that these days will come to an end, however, continues to hit me when I replace the photos on the wall. It seems only yesterday when I worried that front tooth my daughter knocked during a tumble down the stairs would stay brown forever. It was a baby tooth and gone the next year.
All those worries – from the potty training to the acne – seem so small and insignificant, but they were our lives in that moment. I can remember every single one of those moments (ok, most of the moments, well...many, anyway) through these pictures. As I look at them, memories of the past are savored and questions about the future abound.
When I see them over the years, I see their personalities – peeking through from that first baby picture until today’s new one. It’s the no teeth smile on our oldest son whose chubby cheeks have since faded into facial hair. Where will his journey take him? How far away? What will his contribution to this world be?
From our daughter’s innocence to today’s picture – confident and strong, hands on her hips and ready to take on whatever comes her way. What will happen when life knocks her over? Will she get up swinging? When will she see her gifts the way we do?
It’s the same sparkle in our youngest son’s eyes today as it was when he was a year old. Where will that sparkle take him? Will he always be this honest about who he is? And, maybe most importantly, will he ever learn that stripes and plaids don’t go together?
Eileen Casey Gianiodis is mother of three kids and wife to a swim coach. She is a communications manager at a university in Michigan and a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.