Picture Day

I was surfing Flickr and stumbled upon this photo.

Naturally, I immediately emailed it to everyone I knew.

It seemed to elicit two distinct responses. Some immediately boarded the lollercoaster; others said they could hardly look at the photo, it made them so sad. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that parents were largely of the first opinion, and folks without kids of the second.

Here’s the funny thing about parenthood. On the one hand, having a child makes you inexplicably start loving all children. The Queen and I were pretty indifferent to the pants-pooping demographic before The Squirrelly was born, wanting to have one of our own only out of a desire for a minion. But now that we’ve up and made a kid, we’re suddenly flirting with infants on the bus and calling redheaded six year-olds “Sport” at the supermarket. When we’re eating in a restaurant and a couple with a baby sits at the next table, we cheerfully wave and make faces at the squirt, instead of bolting our food and fleeing for the exit, vowing never to return, as we would have five years ago.

On the other hand, parenthood tends to make you revel in the small injuries and indignities to which children are subjected (or inadvertently subject themselves). Before, upon observing an inattentive child walk headlong into a fence post, I would gasp in alarm and rush to his aid; now I’ll roar with laughter and take a mental snapshot of the scene, something to chuckle over for months to come. It’s a little bit of rebellion against our masters.

So if there are any childless women reading, bookmark this entry. The next time your period is a few weeks later, you may want to come back and take a gander at the photo above; if you snicker, it’s time to start shopping for bassinets.


  1. if you find yourself chuckling, it’s time to start shopping for bassinets.

    …Oh, hell.

  2. “On the one hand, having a child makes you inexplicably start loving all children.”

    Just wait. You’ll get over it.

  3. Oh dear… I laughed.

  4. So… whose picture is it?

  5. Were you reading Moby Dick to these poor kids?

  6. Good thing I’m not a fan of OPK (other people’s kids), so yeah, I laughed.

  7. “Winnie the Pooh-hoo-hoo!”

    I thought it was pretty funny, and I don’t have kids. But maybe that just means I’m cruel.

  8. Can you post the link to the photo? Bookmarks are nice and all, but… I’d like to favorite it at Flickr.

  9. so damn true.

  10. I’m sorry — which one is the whale again?

  11. I have to say I laughed.

    F*cking Pooh, the bastard.

  12. Were you reading your posts about your reading of Moby Dick to these kids?

  13. I’m a mom and I ask you, what kind of a sadist would keep taking pics of kids in this much distress?

    Oh, I can so totally relate. We took a picture just like this one of our kids last Christmas and we were REALLY tempted to use it as our Christmas card. Then we realized we would be the only ones who were amused (no one else in the family has kids)…

  15. The background and the fact that they’re not smeared with crusted-over leftovers suggests that this was a professional photo shoot. Since only a maroon would try to sell this shot to the parents, I’m going to guess that the professional put one of his outtakes up on Flickr.

    Oh, and: Yes, I laughed. Yes, I’m a parent.

  16. This is some kind of marketing ploy by the Children’s Television Workshop, isn’t it? “Don’t want your kids to look like this Christmas morning? Buy them Tickle Me Elmo T.M.X. instead!”

  17. First: what’s a lollercoaster?
    Second: why are they crying?
    Third: I don’t like pictures of babies.

  18. Oh man, if you loved that one, you’ll love this gallery. http://tinyurl.com/3nlf3

    Snaps 2 and 7 get funnier every year.

  19. It was picture day on my daughter’s very first day of daycare. It was the first time we had left her. She wasn’t bawling in the photo, but you could tell her eyes were red from crying. I can hardly bear to look at that photo, it makes me so sad. Whether we think it is funny or not, her anguish and confusion (why did mommy and daddy leave me?) were real to her.

  20. I already have kids, don’t like kids and don’t want anymore kids. Don’t get the wrong idea…I love my kids more than life itself. I was neither sad nor did I laugh at the picture…I was thinking it was bedtime or maybe they were upset because they didn’t get their way. *shrugs*

  21. um, actually, I don’t have kids and when I look at that picture I just think THANK GOD I USE CONTRACEPTION.

  22. It reminds me of this.


    Which is despicable. I’m with Matthew that watching certain of America’s Funniest Home videos — or my 4-year-old fall off the couch — is funny, but I’m not there with making kids cry in order to stage photos. Nor do I see the product of that process as funny. A kid crying from fear or confusion radiates fear and confusion, and intentionally causing fear and confusion in a young kid is….well, it’s gross.

  23. rachel: YES. I could not agree more.

  24. the question I have is, who really thinks this is sad? Just cause the kids are crying doesn’t mean they are sad. My guess is they are simply crying cause their parents are making them do something they don’t want to do (hell i’d cry as an adult if my parents forced me to get my picture taken) I just shows the parents didn’t do a really good job exposing the kids to things that they didn’t like to do. That kind of crying really deserves the “shut up or i’ll give you something to cry about”, my parents were experts with that line.

  25. My daughter is 5 and has been afraid of dressed up characters since she was 3ish. We have never pushed her as her fear is okay and she will grow out of it. We have never told her to “shut up or we’ll give you something to cry about” or forced her to have her picture taken with Santa or Chucky Cheese or even Dora when we were at Canada’s Wonderland.
    People who force their kids to have pics taken when they are tired, uncomfortable, afraid etc are just….I have to agree with Braine here, it’s gross.
    If the reason they’re crying is because they are legitimately afraid or tired etc then this is sad and I hope that whatever occasion prompted the parents to take this photo in the first place turned out as great as this photo.
    And no amount of exposing your kids to things they don’t like to do is going to make them stop crying when they’re to tired to be happy, or for that matter make them like it any more. I’m curious to know how far that philosophy should be taken???
    You don’t like peas? Sit there and eat them or I’ll give you more and we’ll be having them every night from now on.
    You don’t like dressed up characters? Sit on Santa’s lap for an hour or at least till you like it.
    You don’t like your picture taken? Quick call Annie Leibowitz to spend the day.
    Disgusting. People who think childrens fears and dislikes are a discipline problem? Disgusting.

  26. Oh so true…

  27. sorry to the parents, but this is AWESOME.

  28. you don’t need to have kids or want them either to laugh and enjoy this picture. one word: schadenfreude

  29. As a parent, the humor here is reminding me of all the times I’ve dressed the little kiddies up in special outfits hoping for the perfect Christmas card photo only to end up with something similar to the above. It has nothing to do with laughing over children’s anguish. I think even the suggestion of that is ridiculous.

    No, it’s funny because I’ve been there. Paid several hundred dollars and spent several hours of time in hopes of the perfect photo only to end up with two exhausted, red-eyed teary children and a huge photographers bill.

    I’ve stood there, behind the photographer, jumping up and down, making funny faces, offering to buy them any toy they’ve ever wanted for just 10 seconds of any expression that even resembles a small semi-smile. Only to get the above. Yep, that’s what’s funny. Not what’s in the photo. What’s happened before, behind and after the camera.

  30. You have nailed it. When I saw this I started laughing. Thanks for showing me another one of the numerous transformations brought about by having a kid.

  31. I’m sorry, but anyone who makes their children pose with Santa, Winnie the Pooh, Dora, or any other of those kinds of charcters is sadistic in my opinion.
    But watching kid walk into a fence is COMPLETELY different. I wouldn’t take pictures of that, either, but only because a video camera would do a much better job.

  32. Hee. I’m taking my 6-month-old to see Santy tomorrow. Luckily he’s a good natured fellow; wasn’t even scared when he fell asleep during his baptism and the priest woke him up with a handful of water to the dome. He was a little freaked out for a second, but then woke up and his expression changed to “Man, what the hell was that? You people are weird. I’m going back to sleep.”

  33. Absolutely hysterical. I sent the link to my husband and he asked “Did you laugh?” and when I said “yes” he turned grey . . .

  34. My son tries to be a tough guy but I will not be surprised the day he vomits on me with his head buried in my chest as he tries to avoid eye contact with whatever dressed up cartoon character, school mascot, or clown is within a 50 ft radius. Nevertheless, I laughed at this picture. No one wants to see children in pain but this picture seems to capture the essence of the bad days of being a parent. And if you can’t laugh while recalling one of those days you are in big trouble.

    Did someone photoshop the hair?

  35. Kids who cry because they’re tired = Annoying

    I could see chuckling at a photo of this, since the child isn’t really suffering. He’s just doing what kids do.

    Kids who cry because they’re not getting their way = Seriously Annoying

    I would wonder about the parent who ran and got the camera after telling the child he couldn’t have a piece of candy.

    Kids who cry because they’re scared or in pain = Sad

    Not funny at all. Pain and fear are just as real to a one-year-old as they are to you.

  36. I bet this is a Picture People photo; my child’s first set of pictures taken there (at 10 months) turned out exactly the same as this. Their “studios” are open to one another, separated only by curtains that do not fully reach the floor. The “rooms” are cold and noisy. Add in the strangeness of the experience, the inexperienced teenager behind the camera, the nervous mom and dad, kids stressed to the max and—voila! Tragicomedy on a stick!

    Awesome. Thanks for posting this.

  37. This is not a real photo of recently-deceased Steve Irwin as an infant. (He is on the left).


  38. being an observer I can tell the difference between the parents that exposed their children to many different situations early and often. you just have to see how relaxed and stress free the parents are. Why? cause the kids are relaxed and stress free. Friends with children invite us to diner or out on the town, we make the decision based on the kids involved, but 90% the time the answer is a big NO to any kid attached family. But to answer dmom, yes most children’s fears and dislikes are a direct discipline problem that if not corrected early lead straight into adulthood. For example my friend is afraid of birds, he is a grown man and sees a sparrow and shrieks like a baby. Where did this come from? Well according to his mother “sometime when he was a kid” why wasn’t this corrected then? Bad parenting. If you think that is wrong replace the word kid with dog and replace the word bird with ball and you would think differently about it but the truth is if your dog is afraid of a ball, it can be corrected.

  39. What if my balls are afraid of the dog?

  40. Its mainly funny because I can feel the parents pain.. and I’m glad it wasnt me!

  41. almost…peed…my….pants….laughing.
    the pic and your assessment are precisely right.

  42. I am definitely a childless woman — with no plans for children as of right now — and I was in the lollercoaster camp. This could be because, in my younger sister’s preschool picture, her face looked so sad and dejected that I used to stare at it when I was upset just for the laugh.

  43. Huh. I immediately thought “Wow, what a great picture for complaint threads on the World of Warcraft message boards!”

    So that’s probably an “I laughed.”.

  44. You’re right – I’m a parent and I think it’s hilarious… mostly because I can imagine the scene – trying to get the kids to the studio in their nice outfits and onto the platform and trying to get them to stay put while the picture is taken. I can only imagine the struggle and the chaos and hilarity (which is not as funny when I am doing it). LOL!

  45. e.thermal, you may be surprised to learn that people are not dogs. I believe there may even be scientific proof that human development is unlike canine development in many respects.

    Just wanted to point that out. Oh, wait, I should also point out that “children” is a subset of “people”–that might not have been obvious to you, either, from the way you talk about them.

    I agree with those who say this picture is funny because of the process behind it, imagining the chagrin of the parents who brought these two in with high hopes of getting a lovely photo for the mantelpiece…I won’t say I found it LOL funny, but a snort of recognition, maybe! I also think anyone who kept shooting photos while the children look this miserable was pretty sadistic. It definitely looks like The Picture People to me.

  46. I will never forget hearing my son, two years old, wailing “Bye, berries!” to the plastic container of dried strawberries that he’d just been denied.

    Yes, he was sincerely upset.

    It was still hilarious to hear him bidding farewell to preserved fruit in EXACTLY the same tone that one might use to say goodbye to a loved one who was being sent off to war.

  47. Let me get this straight: You are marketing your post as pregnancy detector only? Not as a birth-control option. Hmmm…;)

  48. I personally think that the kids are crying because they have really bad hair. I would cry too! And then I would laugh like I am laughing now. If it were my kid? I would buy pictures and send them to all my friends who are trying to have children. And then I would laugh again, like I am laughing now!

  49. I laughed. Hard.

    I’m pretty sure my husband is taking off work tomorrow…to get a vasectomy.

  50. I’m a parent and it still made me a bit sad. Probably because I know that somewhere, a mom is freaking because she just wasted all the money on pictures.

  51. You’re evil, Matt. And I’m only writing because I chuckled…and snickered.

  52. Weird, I didn’t fit into this. I have two kids, and I flirt with kids in restaurants and markets, but this picture made me sad.

    1) Poor kids, they don’t want to be there.

    2) Stupid adults trying to force-capture a moment.

    I don’t know why this wasn’t funny to me. I usually love it when my 2yr-old walks around with a blanket on his head, bumping into walls.

  53. When I hear a kid crying on an airplane these days, my only reaction is to think, “Thank God it’s not mine.”

    Kids cry, all the time. When they are born, it’s the only way they have to affect the world, and change their environment. As a parent, you have to implement that, but you don’t have to get caught up in their emotion. It’s probably better if you don’t.

  54. Before I had my own kids, I loved all kids. Now that I have my own whom I adore, I can’t stand other people’s children. Especially when they’re all snotty and crying. Talk about a “bucket of yuck.”

  55. Everytime I run across someone who’s outraged by the Greenberg exhibition I can’t help but wonder how they’ve managed to watch babies and little kids cry in movies/on teevee for decades and decades (and decades). Because surely those people know the movie/teevee tears were manufactured in precisely the same way as the ones in those stills.

    I’ve never stumbled across any twisted panties over that, but MAN, some undies got SERIOUSLY mangled over those Greenberg images. Just seems odd to me.

    And the photo posted here IS funny. In a, you know, saying “aaaw, poor babies” while laughing my ass off kind of way.

  56. I’ll admit, I chuckled when I saw this. The thought that some people find it sad never even crossed my mind, until you said so.

    I’m not a parent myself, but I do have four younger siblings and divorced parents, so I might as well be a parent. My youngest sister is in third grade and I’m in graduate school – so I’ve had my fair share of parental experience.

  57. MOST of the parents laughed (and are still laughing) because they have been there and done that #$@# – and are just glad these aren’t their kids! It happens, it sucks, but it is funny later! Just be glad there was no sound…

  58. >e.thermal, you may be surprised to learn that people are not dogs.

    Right arm. Having irrational fears is a stage of development that humans go through because our imaginative powers start to kick in; belittling those fears or forcing kids to face the object of their fears is counterproductive. Dogs don’t have imaginative powers.

    Your adult buddy who shrieks at birds has OTHER problems; without knowing his story, it’s hard to say whether his parents are responsible. But I can tell you one thing: If they made him sit through “The Birds” or forced him to have a pet canary, it wouldn’t have helped.

  59. My daughter is 20 months old and it took about an hour to get a picture where she didn’t look angry or upset and was looking at the camera at the Picture People. I felt kind of sorry for the lady taking the picture because she worked sooooooo hard and our daughter wasn’t cooperating. Next year, she should be old enough to understand bribery… last year, she wasn’t mobile. I loved this picture because it reminded me that other people’s kids aren’t compliant either.

  60. Oh please, people. Let’s get up in arms when children aren’t being fed properly or are getting their arms twisted around because they spilled the dog’s water dish. This picture is just kinda funny. Not in a teasing way, but in a I’ve-been-there way.


  61. Parents also know that kids bounce up down the emotional ladder with amazing speed. 30 seconds after this picture was taken those two kids could be laughing and rolling around on the floor. I’m often amazed at the capacity of children to forget they were wailing at the top of their lungs two minutes ago.

    That is why its funny to parents; they know this kids reaction is greatly out of proportion the problem and two minutes later it won’t matter.

  62. Arrr. ‘Tis the Great White Wail!

  63. Sorry. For me it worked the exact opposite. Maybe it’s the hormones…

    I blame them for everything.

  64. I’m a mom of 3 young boys, and last year’s holiday card featured a shot of two of them laughing at their baby brother. You see, he’d cried throughout the photo shoot (I’m the photographer in the family), and as a last resort, just to be funny, my husband grabbed him by the ankles and hung him upside down. The shutter fired and we gave up, but as I sorted through the dozens of outtakes, that was the keeper shot. Other than some teasing from my mother-in-law about calling child protective services, everybody else we know told us it was their fave card of the season–and as I recall, all were parents. (He was upside down for like two seconds, if anyone’s wondering).

    I also laugh every time I see this one, also from 2005:


  65. Ok, I’m not a mother, but I still laughed at that photo. Why? Because I’m a photographer who used to work on studio portraits. Those photos happen a lot more often than you’d think, and more often than not all you can do is stand there helpless while the parents decide if it’s worth it to bring them back later after they’ve had lunch and a nap. The funniest thing about this photo isn’t the kids, it’s that I know what the behind-the-scenes looks like.

  66. oh hell yes- that is hilarious. we have 15 month old triplets and i don’t flinch when they fall or bump into things and each other until they cry for at least 10 seconds.

  67. judging by the red eyes and noses and the messed-up hair that was oh-so-perfect when they started this, these kids have been crying and miserable for quite a while before this pic was snapped.

    Shame on the parents for not cutting their losses and taking them out of there. If you lose your sitting fee, tough beans. Shame on the photographer for not saying — hey, this just isn’t working. How about you guys go outside, get a drink and a breath of fresh air, and I’ll work you back in when everyone’s ready to deal with it.

    This is way beyond just upset, folks — this is real agony, and it’s more than a little disturbing that somebody thinks this is funny.

  68. OH-MY-GAWD! I was busting up laughing when I saw that photo, before I even read your blog. SO VERY TRUE! I have a one year old, and I think being a parent does change your outlook on the crying baby face. I recently visited a friend in Canada, who has a gorgeous black-and-white close-up of her baby’s face in the midst of a good cry. It made me smile – I loved it. She loves the photo too, but says that it gets mixed reactions, including from the Grandma, who finds it sad. I think grandparents (like people without children) also become removed from the humor of baby cries.

  69. I totally laughed.

    And yes, I’m a mother.

  70. I not only laughed, I made it my wallpaper. So I’m that weirdo at word with a computer proudly displaying the pain of two children that don’t even belong to me.

  71. Well. I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. Both, apparently, symptoms of having four children.

  72. Came here via Camacho.TV and I’m not only bookmarking this photo (which, I admit, made me spit pancake on my screen) I’m bookmarking you, too.

    As a parent staring down the barrel of two, I think I’ll have this picture of my own kids in another year or so.


  73. Oh yeah! I have something similar from when my youngest daughter was that age. The woman at the photography place had so much garish make-up on that she looked like a clown and what kid at that age isn’t terrified of clowns.

  74. I have to say that I chuckled – and that I have five kids. We gave up (early on!) trying to get studio group pictures taken. It was always a totally miserable experience for everyone involved. One year in my quest for the Perfect Family Portrait, I called weeks and weeks early to get my choice appointment time – exactly timed between naps and snacks. I had comfy clothes for the kids that they liked; I went in two days before to fill out the paperwork, pick out backgrounds etc. I had emergency snacks and their own toys (not the manky ones from the studio). I had planned for everything – everything that is, except for two of my sons running into each other at full speed the day before the picture! One had black eyes and the other had a huge goose egg in the center of his forehead. I canceled our appointment and from then on, we’ve settled for snapshots.
    Oh – and for whoever it was that said something along the lines of “from how red their eyes are, they’ve obviously been miserable for a while”…my toddlers could go from angelically pale and placid faces to red-rimmed eyes, snot floods, and scarlet cheeks in microseconds! I’m sure those kids are fine. Really.

  75. Making kids cry for the purpose of taking a photo should be criminal. On the other hand, I bite my tongue NOT to laugh when one of mine runs head on into any inanimate object! On the bassinet shopping; BITE your tongue & CROSS your LEGS!!!!!!!

  76. This picture definitely not sponsored by Disney’s marketing deparment…

    I was recently in Warsaw where they have a Pooh Bear Street (Ulica Kubusia Puchatka) and it is pleasing to repiort that the picture of Pooh and Piglet which grace each end of it are taken from the E.H.Shepard originals and not the Tigger-Come-Lately Disney versions. Go our ex-Communist brethren!

  77. do i have to HAVE kids to think this is funny? can i just WORK with kids? can i admit that i laughed really hard when one of my kids, fearing the theft of his granola bar as he went to throw out his wrapper, took it with him to the garbage and accidentally dropped it in? can i still laugh having admitted that he was profoundly upset by this, and near tears? is it sacriligious to assert that i see divine justice every time a kid turns around to give me a smart remark, and doing so, walks into a wall? i have ten five-year-olds, and frequently consider setting them on fire a little bit, or infusing two of them with opposing magnets, so they can’t go near each other any more. i’m a bad person. so are you, yeti. but this might make you laugh http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/120106/sub-basement.gif

  78. eh. i’ve been laughing at kids/people making asses of themselves for longer than i can remember. it’s probably directly connected to the fact that my mother tended to laugh at me when i did something stupid. family traits and whatnot.

  79. I really must say, as a childless guy, nothing pleases me as much as seeing a little child get pulled from their mindless happy barney existence into reality.

    There’s a scene in the movie “the Others” where Nicole Kidmans daughter has been snotty all throughout the film. The daughter is in a room playing with a marionette and kidman sees her as an old witch lady. Kidman grabs her, tears off her white headcovering and flings her across the room. The look on the daughters face made me laugh so hard that i had to leave the movie theatre. And no.. i haven’t grown since then. To this day when i’m watching that movie, i have to leave the room before that scene appears.

  80. I have to say I laughed, but only because I’m a mom who has BEEN THERE.

  81. While I have no kids, but am helping raise someone else’s, I can say without question: this pic is funny. The babies arent injured, so what’s the big deal?! Babies cry- it’s what they do. If they didn’t, they’d be teenagers, and it would be called Whining. Does teenage whining break any hearts? No, and this pic is no different. Make them cry more!!!!!!!

  82. Even as a non-Mom, I chuckled a bit… But then I double-checked to make sure I’d taken my PILL for today.

  83. I’ve got to say, my first reaction was brief concern for the kids, which quickly turned to laughing til tears I had tears on *my* face. Something about all those stuffed animals (THREE Tiggers!!) — symbols of childhood innocence, comfort, and yes, joy — transposed with the misery on these kids’ faces went right to my funny bone.

    I’m a mom, obviously.

  84. Quick! Somebody start a new Photoshopping meme with this pic!

  85. Parent or not a parent, if you can’t laugh at this, there’s something wrong with you. It’s hilarious. These kids are not in any pain other than the pain that comes with having a good, hard cry. The fact that the photographer actually thought to snap the shutter for this one is what’s truly amazing…and THEN add to that the fact that someone saved this pic, scanned it and POSTED it…wow.

    There’s nothing wrong with laughing about children crying over nothing when you’re an adult. Surely we all remember some stupid thing we were in tears about at age 6…and if you think about seeing the little YOU, crying his/her self silly over not getting a Baby Alive (you pick your trauma and I’ll pick mine, thanks), you’ll find that it’s hilarious.

    And if it’s not, well…go see the doctor, because your funny bone is BROKEN.

  86. It’s a little bit of rebellion against our masters.

    Daaaamn, that’s eloquent. Nailed it.

  87. Let me tell you a little bit about what is going on in this picture, and take it from me. I am an experienced photographer and all of you that are bashing the photographer have it all wrong… remember that this parent or parents came to a studio to get pictures taken, some of which dont have time to come back again and want it done right NOW!! some parents are even behind the photographer and screaming take it! take it! and confusing the child on what is really going on… its not the photographers fault that children are out of control, that parents allow them to do what ever they want, so that they can have what ever they want. the only victum here is the photographer…. sheesh!!!

    we should all take this as a lesson, regardless if you have children or not. Don’t do this to your children… WHAT THE F**K IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE????

    if you think this picture is ok, then take the damn picture at home, why pay for it?

    Some children are scared of the backdrops/backgrounds… why are you putting them in a situation that can be traumatizing to them?

    God Bless you all… and good luck. Parenthood is not easy.

    just like someone said, NEXT time use a Rubber.

  88. Woohoo! Sixty-nine vintage photos of kids screaming in Santa’s lap:

  89. I did neither laugh or feel sorry for the children….I felt sorry for the Mother! You know she’s hoping the photographer can somehow get a shot where the cry looks like laughter!

    A sigh of relief…I’m not the only one that has been through this!

  90. Sunny- who made the comment “this is real agony”- cracked me up! She (he?) obviously hasn’t been around too many kids. Real agony for a two year old can be everything from a dropped cookie to having whatever dirty little thing they are trying to eat removed from their hands. I am a pediatric nurse- I have seen kids in real agony. This is not it. I wish my patients would cry like this- it would mean they are healthy and normal! Kids in real agony tend not to cry much.