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Christmas photos … do the kids really look like that?

braces122110_optBY PAM LOBLEY
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
NOW THAT'S FUNNY

"I took 40 pictures yesterday and I'm not happy with any of them."

That's my friend Jeanann, talking about taking a holiday photo of her kids. Why doesn't she just photo shop their heads onto little cartoon figures like other people do?

Jeanann is one of the few that is taking actual pictures of her children. I love those types of Christmas cards. I love seeing the pictures of the kids from year to year, especially the ones from far away. But now, in the digital age, I need to wonder ... do those kids REALLY look like that? Did they retouch the boy's broken nose to make it smoother?

The days of the quirky, candid shot are severely numbered. Digital photography has made it possible to celebrate our children not as they are, but as we wish they could be. Now we can all look like we're in a Ralph Lauren ad.

Retouching among school photos is up sharply, as parents now have the option to get the pimples removed or the scab on the forehead retouched. You can even photo shop in a tooth if your first grader has one of those Jack O'Lantern smiles.

When my oldest son was little, I used to dress him up for picture day. A vest, a clip-on tie: he looked adorable. Then one picture day I forgot, and he went to school in his regular tee shirt. I remembered in a panic, grabbed the shirt and tie, shoved my younger son into the stroller, and raced over the school. I was sweating when I got there, and all the kids were out enjoying recess. My older son ran over to me. "We already took the pictures, Mom." He ran off, disheveled, and with food on his shirt. Despite this, his picture that year looked good. I decided to give up on perfection and go for realism.

Now I like my kids to look exactly as they always do on picture day. However, the photographers feel differently. For instance, ever since my older son got braces, all his pictures have closed mouth smiles. I'm sure the photographer is directing him to do that, but I paid good money for those braces! As a matter of fact, I'm still paying good money for those braces! Why shouldn't he proudly show his metal mouth? Believe me, he looks a lot better with his braces on than he did with his chipmunk teeth.

A couple of years ago, at my niece's communion, my sister-in-law hired a professional photographer. We all posed for various pictures good-naturedly, except my older son, who at the time was 12 years old but practicing to be a sulky teen. He was in foul mood about the picture taking and grimaced and eye-rolled his way through the whole affair. That Christmas, my sister-in-law, to her eternal credit, gave us a lovely 5x7 of all of us, dressed up and smiling, except for my son, who is hunched over and wearing a sour, disdainful face. It is hilarious. It is a perfect representation of the day and the way the personalities were at that moment. It made the memory perfect in its imperfection.

Scabs and missing teeth and braces are some of the reasons I had kids. I wanted to walk that road. Last night we went to a holiday party and my older son was playing cards with friends, laughing out loud with food in his braces, wearing the same tee shirt he had worn all day, red magic marker all over his hands from some earlier school project. I wish I'd had my camera.

Pam Lobley writes the "Now That's Funny" column. Sign up for her mailing list at www.pamlobley.com.

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