The reality of taking toddler passport photos.

On our first trip to turn in our passport applications and have our photos taken, I could not have imagined the monumental task ahead of me. At our local post office, the 8 of us stood in line and one by one we looked straight into the camera and didn’t smile (they don’t like smiles in passport photos). As my first 2 year old twin stepped up to the plate, I had no suspicion that the situation was about to go NUCLEAR. She stared at the camera and while he tried to take the perfect photo she started to get nervous and wanted daddy. As the post office worker continued, she totally lost it and went into insane meltdown mode. This was awful in itself, but her freak out was soon adopted by her twin brother as we tried to take his photo. So picture this, we are in the middle of the post office. There are plenty of customers (because A. there is no home delivery on our mountain so everyone has to go to the post office to get their mail and B. everyone wants to send stuff for Christmas), my 4 older daughters who either look horrified by this or completely bored and my husband and I each holding a toddler who is acting like we have just tried to saw off their legs. We take this opportunity to leave and have no passport photos of the twins.

     When we got home I called all of the places I could find that take passport photos. After I explained the situation, two of the places turned me down flat, saying something like, “don’t even bring them in, we would have no idea what to do.” Which I totally respect, know your weakness. Another place told us to bring them in and see what happened and the fourth said their photo guy had experience with this and had some good ideas. We drove down the mountain while our littles were sleeping (we thought a nap would help) and arrived hopeful at the store. I’m just going to let you know now that this went BADLY. The aforementioned photo guy had left for the day and the woman there had no idea what to do. We tried several things that all ended with wailing, kicking children and no photos. Then they told us there was nothing more they could do and waited awkwardly for us to leave. — Here we learned a very valuable and unexpected lesson. Don’t expect your toddlers to be bribed into good behavior with candy, if they don’t know what it is and have never had it before. They just stared at the M&Ms like they thought we were trying to poison them. — After this we tried going back to the post office and taking them in one at a time but they still acted like demons (imagine Animal from the muppets, but angry and on speed).
     Despairing, we searched online for anything that would solve our problem, but found very little help and lots of people complaining about the same issue. My husband found a tip on the passport.gov website that we decided to try, having no other options.  We strapped the twins into their carseats, tucked a borrowed white sheet (like we would have a non-stained sheet that was in any way white at our house), around them and started taking pictures. I took the photos as my oldest daughter jumped around behind me like a crazy person, with stuffed animals in each hand. I only needed one each where they were looking straight ahead, not pulling a funny or mad face, and were centered on the white background. And after taking hundreds of photos, I did have only one each that met all the requirements. They were sent off and accepted (unlike the other six that were taken at the post office, but that is a different post).
One moral of this story is that it is easier (but not easy) to take a wild toddler’s passport photo yourself than have a stranger do it.
But the REAL moral here (and one that I hope all you new parents will take to heart) is to learn from my pain and get your childrens’ passports when they are tiny and bypass the toddler years or don’t travel until they are older!

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