Back to School Pictures: A Childfree Perspective

It’s that time of year again! Children have butterflies in their stomachs and parents are scrambling to fulfill the ever growing list of school supplies they are expected to send to school with their kids. Meanwhile, teachers are sitting through staff meetings, lamenting the loss of their summer vacations, eagerly waiting (or maybe dreading?) to meet their new students. I, on the other hand, am experiencing none of that. My day-to-day remains unchanged. My social media feeds and timelines, however, are now full of excited looking children with fresh clothing, big smiles, and in some cases, a few missing teeth.
Why do parents post back to school pictures? After all, it’s only been a few months since we all saw what your child looked like on their last day of school, usually in a cropped photo paired with their previous back to school picture. Children don’t change that much in just a few months do they?
Actually, they do. It’s insane.
Like many people, I first began using Facebook about 10 years ago. It was right around the time these newly minted “friends” I knew from high school and college started either getting married or having their first child. In many cases I’ve been watching their kids grow up from the beginning. I’ve seen them in the womb. Admittedly, it’s pretty cool to see my generation create the next one. (It sure seems like we’ve done a thorough job, there are a lot of kids on my Facebook feed people.) Most, if not all, are out of the baby stage now, so back to school pictures have become the norm. It all seemed cute and harmless until one day I saw a, “Back to School, First Day of 4th Grade!” picture. 4th grade? That kid is probably almost double digits. What is going on?
I freaked out and suddenly back to school pictures felt like the least of my problems.
And that was years ago.
This is all going so fast. Once they hit those tween years, fuhgettaboutit. They change so much, they look so grown up, and they make me feel ancient. My nephew turns 14 in two months. 14. He’ll be driving in two years, then heading to college another two years after that, then…what? Getting married? Having kids of his own? Posting pictures of his kids on their first day of school?
I cannot handle thinking about that so I won’t.
It’s not hard to argue that children provide a visual for the passing of time. What I see when I look at pictures of my niece and nephew or my friend’s children is how much time has passed and how far removed I am from their experiences. My friend Robin from High School has a daughter she was able to drop off at the pool this summer to hang out with her friend. I repeat, she dropped her off. As Robin says, “Because she’s twelve. Because she and her friend are very responsible and capable of surviving without adult supervision for two hours.” The fact that some of my oldest friends have children in middle school blows my mind a little bit. Being dropped off at the pool by my parents feels like something that might have happened to me in another lifetime.
Each year back to school pictures serve as milestone markers for our children and really, for us grown-ups too. As a childfree woman, I don’t have kids in my life regularly and many of my life’s milestones have been marked. Sometimes it’s scary to know that my youth is fleeting, or okay, let’s be honest, fled. I can be snarky about kids, (do not show me pictures of your child’s toothless mouth OR the recently lost tooth please,) but those back to school pictures really are a beautiful thing.



  1. Mia Sutton on August 22, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Awww, I’m getting teary-eyed. My boys are going back to school in a couple of weeks and I can’t handle how grown up they seem compared to last year (they’re 6 and 8). You’re so right about photos documenting the passage of time. I’m feeling older by the minute, ha!

    • Courtney A. Casto on August 22, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      I tried to convey that even though I don’t have kids it blows my mind how quickly they seem to grow and how quickly time seems to go. I know the day-to-day can be so, so hard but when I look at the big picture all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. I’m feeling older by the minute too! πŸ™‚

  2. Kevin & Debra Engelken on August 22, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Hi Courtney, my two children are grown and gone. Now I have grandkids! And I thought my kids grew up fast. Grandkids even quicker. Time does fly by as you see the little ones grow (sometimes an inch overnight!).

    I’ve browsed your blog- very nice!

    • Courtney A. Casto on August 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      Thank you so much! I can only imagine how quickly grandkids seems to grow! It’s really beautiful but sometimes I wish time would slow down!

  3. Maggie on August 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    It’s amazing how time passes isn’t it? My SO’s nephew just turned sixteen and is getting his permit, and I swear he was like, basically a BABY when me and my SO started dating. It’s so strange to watch the passage of time like that from afar.

    • Courtney A. Casto on August 23, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      Yes Maggie, it is so strange! It felt like time was moving at a normal pace and then all of a sudden in the last 5 years it went at warp speed. Like my nephew was 6, then 7, then 12. It’s nuts!

  4. Robin Kramer on August 23, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m with my kids all the time, yet it’s still shocking to see their growth. But we remain timeless, right? Right!?

    If you’re ever feeling old-ish, just console yourself that you’re younger than me! πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the shout-out in this post!

    • Courtney A. Casto on August 23, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      I feel ancient! That makes you ancient +1! Your girls are beautiful. I love that I held your youngest when she was just a baby. One of the many amazing things about “old” friends. πŸ™‚

  5. Anthea on August 24, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Time just flies – I don’t have kids but I’m amazed at how fast family and friend’s little ones are growing. It makes me feel old at times!

    • Courtney A. Casto on August 24, 2017 at 11:07 am

      I think their growth might be more noticeable when they aren’t your kids because you don’t see them as often. When I only see kids a few times a year their growth is so obvious. I just saw my nephew in July and I hadn’t seen him since Christmas – I think he grew 6 inches!

  6. Charlotte on August 25, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Beautiful post, Courtney <3

    It's incredible how fast it all goes, isn't it? And as nice as it is to have Facebook to catch up with old friends, seeing those visual reminders of the passing of time sometimes takes my breath away, too.

    It's this time of year though, isn't it? The fall tends to always make me very pensive, too, and I know what you mean about seeing those "First Day of X" posts on social media. So cute, and yet–when did they get so BIG?!

    Hope you have a lovely weekend πŸ™‚ XOXO

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