This afternoon I picked the kids up from school, and Jane came running across the yard.
“Mom, we got our school pictures today! Mom, guess what? They took everyone’s freckles away. Everyone!” Jane was ebullient. I was struck dumb. “Mom,” she continued, “You wouldn’t even recognize Caitlin, without her freckles she looks so different!”
“Show me.” I said, as I smiled through closed lips.
At this point Alexander had flown across the sport court with his white envelope flying in the breeze. “Mom, look! No freckles.” It was the talk of the school and everyone was delighted. Everyone but me.
The kids showed me their photos and I must say that I like some of the photoshopping that was done. Make no mistake, I appreciate the kids’ whitish shirts being bumped up on the color spectrum. Their whitish shirts are my failing, and fixing that makes me swoon. In 25 years when my kids are flipping through old photos someone will think I was a laundry maven. That same someone might be fooled into thinking that I’d realized it was picture day.
The freckles though?
Are freckles on a seven year old my failure? I’m forever applying sunblock to my kids’ faces. I lovingly slather the backs of their necks and the tips of their ears. I know that freckles come from sun exposure. I also know that with a blue eyed daughter and a red headed son, I’m fighting an uphill battle and some of those spots are just kisses from the sun and her angels. I wasn’t previously aware that a few freckles were a photoshoppable offense.
According to the New York Times and Boing Boing scientists have developed algorithms that can beautify any face. In a city where my neighbors are setting beauty standards, where the kids’ classmates are celebrities and Yummy Mummies sport trout pouts along with impossibly large bustlines; raising children (girls in particular) is tricky business. How can I tell my daughter her freckles are beautiful when I’m in the process of lasering my face clear? How will I explain puberty when hair removal is high on my agenda? How do we teach our children to love themselves when we can’t do the same?
I love the dots on my daughter’s nose. I have memorized every mark on my son’s elbows. My favorite picture of Jane has her face covered in mud. When my husband smiles at me there are special lines at the corners of his eyes. They serve as a gauge to his happiness.
When you take away an entire school’s freckles you take away a piece of each child. The 2008-2009 yearbook will feature hundreds of white shirted, white toothed children with nary a freckle nor blemish. Sadly the 2008-2009 yearbook will not represent the moment in time it was meant to capture.
My family is imperfect, and that’s part of why I love them so much. Who else could love me back so wholly? I don’t want the kids with the perfect white shirts. I don’t ache to have children with gleaming white teeth. I’ve never longed for a husband with a creaseless brow. Maybe when the girls hit middle school photographers will taper their waists and accentuate their bustlines? The 8th grade boys would surely enjoy getting broader shoulders. Why stop with just a few freckles?
I’m more than a little ticked off that a photographer thought my kids needed fixing.