Being a kid sucks.
I mean, to an adult, being a kid is awesome: you have zero responsibilities, zero stress; all you have to worry about is whether you want mac and cheese or chicken nuggets for dinner, or how many laps you can run around the couch before you get dizzy and fall over, or how many colored scribbles you can get on the wall before your parents have a hissy fit. (The answers, obviously, are chicken nuggets, twenty six, and anywhere from three to a hundred and three, depending on how much you’re laughing like a maniac while you do it.)
But actually being a kid actually sucks.
You’re always getting hauled off to places you don’t care about. Trips to the grocery store or to Target. Stops at the bank. A daily sojourn to day care. Then, you’re being forced to do all sorts of things that interest you not a bit. Eating vegetables. Going to bed at a “reasonable” hour. Not coloring on the walls. (I should confess that both of my kids are actually pretty well-tempered about these things almost all the time.)
But despite these day-to-day inconveniences, I don’t know that, for a kid, there is any indignity worse than picture day.
You wake up, hoping for a day of cartoons and playgrounds, of candy and sunshine, but the parents are up. And they’re a little bit more wound up than usual. Bustling about. Rushing through breakfast. Nipping at each other about time and duties and outfits and responsibilities. Then they’re stuffing you into stiff clothes that — let’s be honest — are a little long in the sleeve or short in the leg: uncomfortable threads that rub and irritate and constrict and ride up.
Next thing you know, you’re crammed into the car seat — but you can’t have any snacks, because you can’t get any gunk on your hands, and you can’t have anything to drink, because you might spill it on yourself. Now you’re sitting around a lobby, and sure, there are toys around, but they’re not great toys, and your parents are getting mad at you for trying to run around and crawl on the seats, and there’s nothing really to do except sit around and not have fun. Anathema for a toddler.
Finally, you’re shepherded into another room with some other lame toys and a weird adult with a fancy camera, poking and prodding at you and telling you where to stand, how to sit, where to prop your knees, and she keeps telling you to “smile” or say “puppies” and all manner of adults-talking-to-kids-they-don’t-know nonsense.
You can bear it for a few minutes because you’re generally agreeable, and your parents seem really concerned about you doing what the other weirdo asks. But you’re three. There’s only so much you can stand. The ants start creeping in and you have no more patience for holding still. They’re still asking you to smile, but all you can do is bare your teeth like a wild animal. Meanwhile, your baby sister has long ago given up the fight and is intermittently squalling like a hamstrung sheep or swatting you about the face with spit-slick hands.
Somehow, you survive it, and you end up at home again. You’re allowed to put normal clothes on again and have something decent to eat. And what do you have to show for this? A handful of pictures of you, which makes not an ounce of goldfingered sense to you, seeing as the house is full of pictures of you anyway.