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Mom Versus School Photographer, Round One

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Why does the general rule that adults are not supposed to touch other people's children somehow not apply to school photographers?

straight hair post photographer

Christina Coleman: The night before my daughter Brynn's school picture day, I put curlers in her hair. She complained about having to sit under the dryer, but I assured her it would be worth it the next day when she saw how beautiful her curls were. And she agreed. She was VERY excited about her beautiful hair for picture day, and it made the dryer-curlers ordeal worth it.

When I returned home from work the day of picture day, Brynn came to me and was very upset, and was apologizing to me about her hair. She told me that the photographers (a male and a female) both told her that they "had to" brush her hair, and she did not want them to, but they told her she "had to," and proceeded to brush out all of her curls.

I was concerned when I heard this, and I asked quite specifically, "Did they tell you that you 'had to,' even when you said you didn't want to?" and she said, "Yes, they said I 'had to.'"

First, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should be touching my child at all, much less over her objections.

Second, it is improper and irresponsible for a non-teacher, non-police/fireman, non-parent to be telling a child, especially a first-grader, that they "have to" do what they say. As parents, we teach our children not to talk to strangers, and that they can trust teachers, and policeman, and certain relatives, and clergy, etc., but try to make sure they understand the importance of knowing who to trust and obey. Children who trust and obey just anybody are the children who get into cars with strangers, get molested, and other dangers, and we teach our children NOT to trust and obey just anybody. So for strangers, photographers, to tell my child that she must do what they say, and to make her feel powerless to disobey, completely undermines our teachings and puts her in danger.

Third, Brynn was SO excited about her beautiful hair, and the conduct of the photographers completely made her dryer-curlers ordeal pointless. While the pictures turned out okay, Brynn, my husband, and I were all disappointed about how they turned out, and how anyone could think that the resulting hairstyle that the photographers came up with was better than the one she arrived to school with is beyond me.

I formally complained to the school photographer about the assault on Brynn's curls. The photographer claimed "fixing" Brynn's hair was necessary because it was covering one of her eyes, but apologized and agreed to do a re-shoot. They also promised they will not touch her, and if her hair needs to be swept out of her face, they said she can do it herself.

I should say so! We may have boing-boing curls in our photographic future!

Do YOU think the photographer was out of line? Comment below.

next: Tiger Woods: Why Do You Deserve Privacy?
38 comments so far | Post a comment now
tennmom December 7, 2009, 10:49 AM

I don’t blame the author for being upset. For one thing - touching my child in such a personal way!? Point 2: um, how many heads of hair did that hairbrush touch? Hello, children can spread lice by hugging, I cringe at the thought of a “community” hairbrush.
My younger daughter, now 9, was born with a headfull of crazy-curly hair. As an older baby, toddler, pre-schooler, she had a mix of tight ringlet curls and wacky curls that would stick up in odd dirctions as though she had just finished a flight around the world like Super-girl. I would carefully brush it down before photos, but BOINK, her curls had a life of their own.
Her hair is down to her waist now, so she mostly has slight waves with a few tiny curls around her face. She loves for me to put her hair in the “flex” rollers at bedtime.
Bottom line for me, I suppose, is Hey! Keep your hands off my child’s head unless I ask for your help.

muddin mom of 2 December 7, 2009, 11:03 AM

I can VERY MUCH relate to this!
My 6 year old son has the most AWESOME blonde curls….
however he has grown to HATE his hair, due to all the little old ladies in the grocery stores, that INSIST on touching them, and then TELLING him that he has hair that ANY LITTLE GIRL would love to have!
WHY do people think its ok to do that???

Serilda December 7, 2009, 11:08 AM

It is one thing for them to tuck her curls behind her ear, it is something entirely different for them to brush her hair…

Kat December 7, 2009, 11:14 AM

I agree that strangers should not be touching kids. My son is a red-head with amazing bright hair…..people are constantly “petting” him. I will be standing in a supermarket line and people will comment and then start stroking his hair. I didn’t like it but kinda got it when he was a baby but he is now almost four. This is not okay I do not touch other people’s hair and strangers should not touch my son’s. Once in Las Vegas a lady actually asked me if she could rub his head for luck since she was going to the casino later that night. It seems most popular with 50 women, although I have had it happen from men and women, young and old. Are people still going to be touching my baby when he is 16?
If they are not touching him, they are asking me if I dye it.

Melinda December 7, 2009, 11:20 AM

Thats the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. They needed to brush her entire head because “some” hair was covering her eye. NO WAY should they have physically altered her hair, dress, shoelace or fingers for a photo. A simple “Honey could you brush the hair off your face” is quite sufficient. At what point should her teacher should have stepped in and protected her students from this stranger also. Good for you for speaking up, hopefully is was nice and loud.

Pamala December 7, 2009, 11:43 AM

I really wish they would have brushed and washed my child’s face before her picture. Instead they didn’t so my child looks like a hot mess because they only did the pictures after recess. Great.

Photographer assistant December 7, 2009, 12:48 PM

Ok, before you get all nuts, I think I need to state a photographer’s opinion. Let me state that brushing the girl’s hair was not right, however, for all of you that are going crazy about the photographer touching the child, that’s just ridiculous. Photographers often have to help pose children (and adults!) and if needed, will smooth a stray hair, fix a tie, or help pull a wrinkle out of a shirt. If we didn’t, people wouldn’t buy the pictures or we’d have to spend hours in photoshop fixing the images (watching our money fly out the window). This does not mean the photographer is trying to touch the child inappropriately or anything like that- just trying to get good pictures for you!

Ryan December 7, 2009, 1:26 PM

I entirely agree with this post, and it is yet another example of why my kids will be home-schooled. How anyone can trust schools now-a-days is beyond me, but I digress. The “Photographer assistant” is out of line here because the post clearly states that the little girl did not want to be touched and was forced. Many other posts here offer better suggestions than deliberately combing out curls that the little girl worked so hard to maintain. He/she can try to justify this anyway they want, and of course the “we will lose money!” addage is used, but I do not care. I would complain to the teacher, counselors, the principal, letting them know precisely how angry and outraged I am that someone was this callous with my child. Perhaps the photographer was worried about their own pocketbook as suggested by the other post, but I would push the school to find another, more appropriate photographer, and then see how the pocketbook shrinks.

Too bad the photographer probably has a monopoly on the school!

been there December 7, 2009, 1:38 PM

This story reminds me of my 3rd grade school picture. I always had very thick,wavy hair and my mom would put in those awful pink hard rollers in my hair to make it really curly. She did this the night before my school picture and as always I hated the way it looked. I stole my mom’s cold cream and some bobby pins and took them to school with me. Right before I got my picture taken, I went into the bathroom and applied a very thick layer of cold cream on my hair and then put the bobby pins in to completely flaten it and thats how my 3rd grade pictured turned out. My mom freaked when she saw the pictures and all I could tell her is that the photogragher did it! Now at 42, I have told her the truth years ago and every time when come across that picture again we just laugh about it. You should relax alittle, it’s only a picture.

Anonymous December 7, 2009, 2:49 PM

Wow. Where I work, they hand the teacher a bunch of combs. They are not shared. The teacher knows the kids and knows which ones need a fix up and which should not be touched. It works out much better that way since the kids and the teacher are not strangers.

Um Really December 7, 2009, 3:08 PM

Helicopter much? So your little darling doesn’t look like the “Princess” you are trying to make her…so she isn’t “Perfect” in the picture that you will have to save to show the E True Hollywood Story people when she is a starlette…Get over it. Should they have brushed her hair, No. Is this something to put this much importance on…NO!

Secret Mommy December 7, 2009, 3:24 PM

I don’t think this is helicopter parenting at all. I started wearing glasses in the 2nd grade and also had long wavy hair as a child. Between the photographers putting my glasses at a weird angle on my head (to cut the glare of the flash…but resulting in a VERY strange look…which is better or worse?) and “fixing” my hair after my grandmother had usually spent quite a bit of time that morning or the night before fixing it…I don’t think I EVER had an elementary school picture that turned out the way my family or I wanted it. I think these school photographers get stressed out having to take HUNDREDS of kids pictures in a day and start to do things that are counter-productive to producing a product their customers want. It’s also a little over the line that they would “force” a child to do something such as sit there while all her curls are brushed out…

Ty December 7, 2009, 3:40 PM

I understand your distress about strangers touching your children…I would have felt the same way in your place. I do wonder though, about your decision to plaster your child’s photo on the front page of a popular blog, especially when your first and last names are listed. There are many different ways we need to protect our children these days…..

musicmom December 7, 2009, 5:11 PM

With all that COULD have happened, and all that is really happening to kids, what’s the fuss here? Puleeze! This mother is going too far. The photographer did not “put his/her “hands on the kid”, her hair was combed. If anyone deserves to be blasted it’s the teacher who is supposed tobe overseeing the situation. And the kid does NOT look upset in the photo (which, for a school pic isn’t bad at all). Grow up mom. There are more important things to worry and fight about!

Maggie December 7, 2009, 5:11 PM

While I agree that the photographers shouldn’t have touched her hair — especially against her wishes — I think Mom needs to get a grip. The photo is adorable. And the part about her daughter complaining about sitting under the dryer and mom pushing for it anyway is disturbing. I think MOM really wanted curls and that’s the bigger issue here. Clean hair is non negotiable. Neat and brushed hair is non negotiable. But if this little girl didn’t want to sit for dryer curls, Mom shouldn’t have forced it.

tennmom December 7, 2009, 6:27 PM

While in pre-K (my now 9 year old was 4) photogs would come twice a year. The Spring session involved dressing the children in costumes. My daughter decided she didn’t want to wear a costume, but a photog asst. took it upon herself to try to change my daughter into a costume.
I still love her pre-K teacher (a retired K-garten teacher) for stepping up to the asst. and saying “We do NOT do that. NEVER try to force one of my kids into costume after they have told you no.”
Any contact from another adult onto one’s child that makes the parent or child uncomfortable is a serious issue.

Flash December 7, 2009, 11:28 PM

I’m a teacher and this essay is ridiculous. How much time does the photographer have for the school? Go to WalMart or Sears and take some pictures. The mom can take the day off to fix her baby’s hair for picture day so no one touches her perfect angel. Too much free time, mom.

friend December 8, 2009, 1:19 AM

i think both the parent and the photographer are to be blamed for the situation. first of all, photographers have their opinions of what looks nice for pictures, even though not all do and not all are agreeable in that fashion. this can be seen on @theEllenShow ‘s bad pictures section. anyways, photographers have to make sure the student complies with the school’s guidelines and try to please the children and their parents at the same time, yet get a lot of crap when the pictures turn out to be less than expected, be it either because they did something (help with hair/makeup/pose, etc) or they didn’t (ignored a smear/hair/crooked tie, etc). AND don’t forget that sometimes, it’s the children that made the changes to what their parents forced (or should i say with forceful unrelenting persuasions) them into something in the first place.

the mom has stated that she had indeed persuaded her daughter to go with her idea of curls which she had originally rejected. so when they were brushed out, she was devastated not because she didn’t want curls in the first place so it didn’t matter but because her mom placed so much emphasis on it that she feels she has failed and disappointed her mom. that’s why i think the mom is partly to be blamed too.

therefore, the mom shouldn’t have been so irate to this situation. As she has already cleared that the photographers are willing to retake the pictures, it is obvious that these people are not irrational and inconsiderate. but for the mom to think that others are always to be blamed is why children are becoming more selfish and believe they are entitled to everything and unable to accept failures and disappointments, which will eventually drive some to the point of irrational behavior causing societal disturbance.

a mom December 8, 2009, 3:42 AM

Ok… you should see my daughters school pix this year. Horrible. Not the photog fault her’s for the way she fixed her hair. She’s 7 and independant. Every year I make sure I’m at school for pix day. I understand that we pay for the pix and want a good pix. The photog offered a re-take… do it! Maybe next year they need to get a different photog and maybe next year you should be there.

deb37 December 8, 2009, 6:58 AM

i agree with this lady. no one should ever touch a child and especially when they say no!!! this parent has ever right to be angry.

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