Passport to Anywhere

January 25, 2012

So we’re heading on a big trip this summer, and the time has come to get new passports.  Easy, right?  Well, it’s amazing how Down syndrome can even sneak its way into something as simple as getting a passport photo taken.

In we went to the photo store today, me with a touch of lipstick and little Rachel with a fresh haircut and a pink shirt (her best colour).  We walked over to the big white screen at the back of the store and got ready for the big photo op.

Hitch #1 —  She had to sit on a tall barstool

Now Rachel’s balance is not good at all, and if there is no back to her chair, she has huge difficulty sitting.  Of course I couldn’t hold her very well as my hands couldn’t be shown in the picture.

Me: I don’t suppose you can Photoshop my arms out of a passport photo?

Camera Lady: No.

So I crouch on the floor with my hands supporting Rachel’s middle while she wails and tries to dive into my arms to escape her vertigo.

Hitch #2 — She had to look directly at the camera

It’s difficult to get a picture of Rachel looking right at the camera.  She can’t see well, so she tilts her head back to get a better look at you, and you end up with a lovely picture of her neck.

Camera Lady:  The passport people won’t accept the photo if she’s not looking right at the camera.

Me: I guess she can’t wear her glasses?

Camera Lady: No.

Me: It’s just kind of hard.

Camera Lady: I know.

Camera Lady: If you can, you should take the application to the passport office personally rather than mail it in and explain that your child has a medical condition so it’s hard to get the right kind of photo.

Other customers are getting restless and are looking at us.

Hitch #3 —  No saying “Cheese”

OK, so this has nothing to do with Down syndrome except that she doesn’t understand that for this picture, we can’t say cheese.  No smiling allowed.  It must be confusing since we have been working on smiling for photos for the past 3+ years.

Hitch #4 — Mouth closed

Sigh.  Mouths have to be closed for photos now apparently. This is difficult for kids with DS at the best of times.  They have low muscle tone; their facial muscles are more lax.  Their mouths are often open.  When a kid is using all her strength to sit upright on a barstool, it’s hard for her to purse her lips together.

We tell Rachel to close her mouth. She covers it with her hands. Nope, that’s not going to work.  She’s desperately trying to get off that darned stool, so I start singing to her to keep her attention and distract her from her discomfort.  She starts swaying and singing Happy Birthday– her favourite song.

Camera Lady has the brilliant suggestion to hum the song!  Good thinking Camera Lady!  You can’t hum with your mouth open!

The result…

Cross fingers that it passes inspection!

 Cross fingers that it passes the inspection!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Hodd January 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm

You’re amazing Heather! Thank you for sharing this experience. And it strikes me just by how beautiful Rachel is – even without her smile! Great idea about the humming.


Heather January 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Thanks Alison… you’ve got to find the humour, I guess! ;) Thank you for your kind words about Rachel… it actually turned out ok, which is good because her last passport pic was atrocious!


Amanda January 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I <3 this story and this especially this picture!


Heather January 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Thank you…. I think hers was actually a lot better than mine. We should all hum a song when we’re getting our passport photos taken.


Rania Chow January 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Hi Heather! We went through an identical experience with Justin. Each year gets a little easier though. The challenge this year was that after getting Justin to do a perfect pose for the passport photo, he made the same face for his school photo! Too cute : )


Heather January 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Oh that’s adorable, Rania – thanks for sharing!


Iris January 26, 2012 at 8:47 am

Heather and Alex

Thanks for sharing…what a beautiful gift. God as the answer to every situation.

Take special care of her.


Heather January 26, 2012 at 8:57 am

She is a gift, Iris, it’s true… thanks so much for visiting and commenting! Heather


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