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Love Your Baby…Hold Off On The Pictures [On The Contrary]

I’m told it’s “Love Week” at Fierce and Nerdy. I’m assuming that means romantic love, as Valentine’s Day is upon us, making those of us in good relationships feel great, those of us in a so-so relationships feel anxious but relieved we’re in a relationship, and those of us not in a relationship feel like the Jehovah’s Witness kid at the kindergarten Halloween Party (that is, left out, embittered, but perhaps with a slight sense of superiority). Romance is wonderful, both the capital “R” and the lower case versions. However, I was never one to go completely with the program. I think I’ll take the road less travelled and explore a different kind of love—the kind of love that comes to be as the result of romantic love (or poor judgment). I’m talking about parental love.

Ah babies. They’re so polarizing, and yet we have to pretend they aren’t. No creature in existence can be at once completely helpless and at the same time wield such absolute control over the dominant species on the planet than the human baby.

Just to make it clear from the start, I am not a parent, nor am I expecting to become a parent anytime soon. I am an uncle, though, and I’m also reaching the age where many of my friends are married and having children of their own. So while there are no babies front and center in my life, they seem to be around my perimeter, like the Pacific Ocean is to Los Angeles, or prescription drug abuse is to Utah.

Now let it be known that I am not a baby guy, but I like kids. Once they are little people, anywhere from 2 onwards (really whenever they can kind of talk), they are magical. Before that, I don’t really know what to do with them. I understand why people like them, and I can appreciate them in theory, but they just feel—underdone to me. The good news is, all babies are growing, so the underdone phase is pretty fleeting in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, it seems like parents do their best to capture as many images of these ultimate awkward years (or is it months?) as possible.

Case and point—the newborn photo. It has always been customary to take a picture of a new infant as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a wonder people even let the doctors towel the thing off before they thrust baby into the unforgiving permanence of a photograph. I can understand the excitement of a new parent at seeing his or her progeny (and usually I would think the photographer would be the parent who did not just go through labor) and wanting to capture that for all times. Unfortunately, this image is often then shoved into the face of other family members, friends, and too often disinterested co-workers who just wanted to get their lunch out of the fridge without being accosted by Excited New Parent. For a long time, this was the extent of flashing newborn photos around, a quick look and a forced comment about how cute the kid is or how much “he looks like his father.” Now, though, this encounter is not fleeting. Now we have Facebook.

How many new parents change their Facebook profiles to their newborn’s mug shot? I would venture to say at least 75%, and I think it is probably more. This is unfair in two ways. For one, it’s simply inaccurate. A photo of your baby is not you, and so making that your profile picture is simply a misrepresentation. The biggest injustice, however, is to the child. As Mrs. Lovejoy always would proclaim on THE SIMPSONS, “Won’t someone think of the children!?”

Imagine your worst morning. One of those days that you had to get up much earlier than you wanted, and you awoke to find your home a freezing temperature. Now imagine you awoke that morning soaking wet, and instead of climbing out of bed you were forcibly pushed out, only it wasn’t a bed, it was a overly tight sleeping bag that was cinched up around you so all of your body and face crushed on your forced exit. You see where I’m going with this?

We’ll skip the other graphic steps of birth like the cutting umbilical or circumcision (though these would contribute to a pretty shitty morning indeed). On this hypothetically terrible morning, how excited would you be to have your picture taken? I don’t even like to talk to people before I’m showered, dressed, and have some sort of caffeine in me. I doubt many people would be keen on having a picture taken with their bed head in full effect. Yet we do this all the time to the least of us, those helpless little people who are too young to do anything about it or yell, “Get that camera out of my face!” Then we take these photos and put them on the Internet, where they could presumably live forever…an undying record of a human when he or she most resembles a turd.

I would feel a hypocrite if I contributed to pattern, so in to make sure I hurt no one new, I submit this image that was taken of me in what was apparently the worst morning of my life.

(I look like an undercooked piece of meat. And kind of Asian. Hmm.)

I am not advocating we do away with baby photographs. Like it or not, parents are going to take them. But keep them where they belong—in a photo album to be perused only occasionally. The photo of the new baby that should be passed around the office and posted on the web is the image of the new family. Don’t leave that baby out there alone. Photos of a new mother or father cradling their progeny are lovely. They don’t put the kid on the spot, they give a nice perspective of how the kid looks in relation to the parents, and they give context for the picture. They also usually have the baby wrapped up pretty well, so he or she is “dressed” in the best condition possible.

I can imagine what mothers might be thinking. You just went through the rough ordeal of labor, something I as a man can never experience and as a non-parent I have no perspective on. Fair enough. But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that your baby had a day at least as rough just as yours.

So have your babies, take your pictures, and Mazel Tov to all new and expecting parents. Just remember to show that kid a little love and restraint from the start, and let him look his best before you take his headshot.

Won’t someone please think of the children?

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featured image credit: mahalie