MATERIAL GIRL: Jodie Bruton on tell-all school photos

IF a picture is worth a thousand words, then a school photo is the sum of a short essay.

The annual class and individual portraits offer a rare glimpse into how the morning might have played out in homes the world over.

The child sitting in the front row wearing the wrong shoes; the one in the middle row in ... oops ... sports uniform; or the high school boy in the back row flicking the bra strap of the girl immediately in front of him, evident only by the wide grins on both of their faces.

My favourite episode of British TV children's program Charlie and Lola deals with school photo day.

Infants school pupil Lola tries desperately to stay clean all day until the burden becomes too much for her to bear and she winds up covered in dirt, water and paint. She has grime from neck to knees just in time for her sibling photo with older brother Charlie.

In trying to be our best-groomed or well-presented self, it quite often all just goes to hell.

Driving to a dance lesson run by a special guest teacher this month, I noticed my eldest daughter had a hole in the front of her tights at thigh-height.

“Are they your best pair?” I ask, stopped at the traffic lights.

“Yes,” she says.

"I'll just tuck it into my leotard; no one will even notice."

"It’s kind of tricky to do a pirouette while hitching your tights into your britches," I suggest.

"You worry too much," she says.

Within the next block my daughter’s nose started to bleed and there were no tissues anywhere. All we had was an empty RACV envelope out of the glovebox to stem the flow; consequently her leotard looked a little worse for wear too.

When we arrived at the dance studio we realised her locker key was at home, meaning we had to spot-clean the leotard, borrow ballet shoes, buy tights and steal tissues.

With that episode behind us, school photos would be a walk in the park this year.

Shoes were polished and dresses ironed, which left only hair to sort out. Beyond challenged in the stylist stakes, I have considered braiding my girls’ hair before bed-time and using hairspray to hold it in place overnight. However, they’re unsettled sleepers and no amount of hair gel can weather their tossing and turning.

I braided our youngest daughter’s super-fine, hair quickly enough before the eldest emerged from her room with a bad case of bed head. Having unravelled the tangle, I got to work on a partial braid, going into a simple, side pony tail. Her words.

At 8.45am my husband announced: "We leave for school at 8.35 every day!"

Nothing makes a French braid go from bad to worse than the Lausanne Metro gathering steam at the breakfast bar. We settled on a rough-puff pony tail.

Two days later when we had to go through the whole process again for the sibling photo, I blew my braiding top.

“IT’S JUST NOT MY TALENT!” I screech.

“I can write you a great press release or a poem at a stretch but I can’t do fancy hair.”

With that said and done, the girls simply decided to do each other’s hair. When it came time for their uniforms, I found the youngest’s best dress in the dirty laundry and her second best dress scrunched up in the bottom of her wardrobe with a stain, smack-bang in the middle of the neck tie.

At any rate, this year’s sweet sibling school photo will put a smile on my dial.