Columnist Jeni Harvey: Allow parents one day to show why they are so uncool

editorial image

Back in the annals of time, school photos were only ever seen gathering dust on the bookshelves of proud parents. But over the last few years, each September there’s been an unstoppable march of rosy-cheeked schoolchildren onto the news feeds of Facebook users across the land.

As sure as grey skies, darker nights and Christmas gifts in the shops to herald the onset of autumn, now we also have the annual rush of proud First Day of School photographs.

The pictures are much of a muchness – a four-year-old you remember being born only five minutes ago, in a too-big school uniform, standing grinning from ear to ear, accompanied by a gushing caption. And just as inevitable is the rash of sarcastic Facebook updates from non-parents, mocking those who post such pictures, each apparently thinking they’re being scathing, satirical and original.

I fall somewhere between both camps. I haven’t posted school photos on Facebook, but nor do I begrudge those who do. With families living further apart from each other than in previous generations, Facebook is often the easiest way for proud grandparents to see their grandchildren going off to school for the first time.

I have no doubt when it’s my own little boy in his school uniform, I’ll probably think he’s the cutest creature ever to walk the earth. I’ll be wrong, but parents are allowed to be wrong. Let’s face it, we’re half-crazed from lack of sleep – it’s hardly surprising we post unimaginative nonsense on social media.

While, yes, school pictures all look alike, and other people’s children are pretty uninteresting 99 per cent of the time, it’s once a year. And school photos are certainly less offensive Facebook fodder than, say, Candy Crush invitations.

What the school photo-haters also need to remember is that we see their photos all year round, and we’re envious. Yes, I’m talking about those pictures of post-work cocktails, warehouse parties, trips to galleries, theatres and cinemas and exotic holidays. While we’re spooning beans into a toddler, they’re in a bar on Divison Street knocking back an espresso martini. While they’re exploring the jungles of Laos, we’re chasing children along Cornish beaches – in the rain. This is why the child-free should let parents have School Photos Day. For the rest of the year, non-parents have Facebook all sewn up with coolness. So for one day a year, parents should be allowed to demonstrate just why their own coolness has taken a nosedive.