Let’s Get Real

Parents (USA) - - Contents - —Erin Zam­mett Ruddy

ONE OF my fa­vorite child­hood pho­tos shows my older sis­ter and me get­ting onto the school bus. I’m wear­ing a sun­dress, knee socks, and jelly shoes (the ’80s, baby). Melissa’s got a too-cool-for-school smirk. Scrawled on the back, in my mother’s cur­sive: “First day of school, 1986, 5th and 3rd.” Ev­ery­one has th­ese pic­tures, right? But in­stead of liv­ing in a dusty photo al­bum, th­ese mile­stones are now set free on Face­book and In­sta­gram for any­one to thumbs-up and heart. Ask any­body with a school-age kid what their feed looks like at this time of year, and they’ll tell you it’s a steady stream of adorable kids with over­size back­packs and brand-new, fully laced sneak­ers. “The first day of school is my fa­vorite day on Face­book—i get carpal tun­nel from lik­ing all the pic­tures!” says Net­tie, a mother of two in Hunt­ing­ton, New York. Even friends who rarely post will come out of hid­ing with the “oblig­a­tory back-to-school pic.” “I al­ways equate back-toschool time with a new year more than the ac­tual new year, so th­ese shots feel like hol­i­day cards to me,” says Mered­ith, a mom of two in Bal­ti­more. “I get to see how all of my friends’ kids have grown, and how sun-kissed and happy they look be­cause, let’s face it, by Week 2 we’re to­tally over it.” It’s also much less for­mal than the hol­i­day photo shoot. No­body has to force their kids into itchy dresses or onto a bearded man’s lap. They’re snapped in a few sec­onds on front stoops and at bus stops. Well, mostly. Some par­ents stage shoots that re­quire plan­ning and props. A bud­ding in­dus­try of chalk­board signs has popped up. De­signed specif­i­cally for the back-to-school shoot, they range from the ba­sic “First Day of ______ Grade” to fancy-fonted ones with fill-in-the-blanks for de­tails like fa­vorite school ac­tiv­ity. Last year, an Alabama mom’s post went vi­ral. It fea­tured a pic­ture of her float­ing in the pool drink­ing OJ from a cham­pagne flute while her kids stood on the deck with back­packs and pouts. “I par­tic­u­larly love the funny ones,” says Adri­enne, a mom of two in Pitts­burgh. A fa­vorite of hers is a friend’s photo of her kinder­gart­ner along with a stick-fig­ure draw­ing of her non­com­pli­ant 10th-grader. The cap­tion: “At least he smiled.” Re­ally, any­thing goes—and gets likes. A few years ago, I posted a shot of my three, with the youngest run­ning to­ward the cam­era in a blur, and wrote, “Let’s hope the first day of school goes bet­ter than the first-day-of­school photo shoot.” This year? I don’t think I’ll be do­ing any­thing elab­o­rate. Un­less crop­ping out dead hy­drangeas counts. But I will be post­ing that shot of me and my jel­lies #TBT #back­toschool #bangs­for­days.

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