For my children, the photo booth sitting at the bottom of the Co op escalator is an object of amusement. Oh how they plead with me each time we pass for the opportunity to pull peculiar expressions at the screen and be rewarded with a strip of amusing photographs, ‘just like they do in the movies’. For me, however, the booth is an object to fear. Every now and then the time rolls around where I am forced to renew important documents and the dreaded booth must be paid a visit.
It had been about three years since I last entered the booth of doom, I remember how much I had hated that photo as it slid out of the machine. My youngest was only a few months old, I was desperately sleep deprived, I didn’t have the time to make up my face to perfection, but the passport HAD to be renewed. I loathed it when my passport arrived and I wished I hadn’t had to get it done. The previous photo had been so much better, my youthful late-teenage face, no lines, no bags, glowing, sun kissed skin. Now it resembles a knackered mum of two.
Last week another letter came through the door with a reminder that more photos were needed for yet another document. The booth was revisited, once again, in a rush. One daughter collected from school, another one needing to be collected from nursery, the first snaps taken had to do. I barely looked at them as I scooped them into my handbag and headed to nursery. Only on returning home did I pull them out to mull over. Do I REALLY look like that now? My children generally sleep through the night, I had bags in the last one but I was sleep deprived then, what is my excuse now? In three years I see, under the unflattering booth lighting, that I have aged, more than I thought, lines are deepening and I am sure my chin has got bigger?
I resorted to stuffing said photos into my ‘junk’ drawer and proceeded to search the drawer in the hope that I actually had some left over from my last photo session. I did. Compared to this week’s photo session the ones from three years ago that I had hated SO much didn’t seem so bad, actually, I looked pretty good in them. I opted for those photos and considered chucking out the latest, but I stopped myself. Curiosity decided to keep them in the drawer. In another seven years I will have to renew my passport again, and when I do I may just dig out those photos and see what has changed this time.
In our Instagram obsessed world we are all guilty of reaching for a filter whenever we post a cheeky snap of ourselves, and you know what, there isn’t anything wrong with that. A photo where we are happy with our own appearance does wonders for our self esteem. If I admire myself in a certain outfit, for example, then the next time I wear it I will go out with a spring in my step. But a REAL photo can, when it’s looked back upon, stir other, equally as important emotions. I no longer hate the photo from three years ago, when I look at it now I see a young mum, a mum doing her best at breast feeding all night long, getting used to parenting two kids, yet still finding the ability to renew that passport. I was winning at motherhood that day. So yes, I still hate the new ones, but I expect in a few years I will look at those and think, yeah, I looked exhausted there, but S had just had Scarlet Fever and we had been juggling our daily lives for a week whilst she recovered. I still managed to sneak in a trip to the hated booth between school runs and clubs despite being a week behind with work.
I guess, if I think about it, I am winning at parenthood now too…