Failport.

We’re going back to Australia for two weeks in July, right when the northern summer is at its scorching zenith and the great wide land is about as cold as it gets. Whoever heard of following the winter! But that’s that way it works out here with holidays and stuff. GET AWAY SUN, who needs you…

*cries*

Before we get on the plane, we need to renew Rufus’s passport – it just expired. That’s terrifying, because it means he’ll be 5 this year. Where has the time gone etc.

The shot on the left is his current passport photo, and the one on the right is what he actually looks like at present:

I guess if he wore a baby blue singlet and got on the cakes a bit, he could still pass for that little dude on the left.  I have to admit I take no joy in that photo, gorgeous (in a Humpty Dumpty kind of way) that it is, because I recall all too well the hellish test of patience we went through trying to get it.  Getting a passport photo of a four-month-old baby is fraught with difficulty.  It’s exactly the wrong age to attempt such an operation.  They get jokes, they giggle, they can’t stop smiling.  And the completely reasonable and not-alarmist-at-all requirements say the baby must have eyes open, mouth shut, be sitting freely with no parent’s hands or toys visible, against a plain background, in a plain t-shirt with no decoration, and wearing a neutral expression.

You might think that it would be straightforward to capture a baby wearing a neutral expression.  In fact before I had my own, I used to think that’s the only expression they could do, that they not much more engaging than lumps of wood.  I can now assure you that that phase lasts about 10 days and then they very animatedly develop hundreds of different expressions as the weeks progress, not a one of which could be considered neutral by the age of four months.  Especially when there’s a flashing device in front of them.

The first time we used the passport, we were annoyed to have to pull Rufus out of his stroller, wake him up and present him face-forward at every Customs point on our trip.  They can’t be too careful these days, you know, with border security and foiling terrorists from using babies as a plane-boarding cover.  But insight tells me a terrorist is not going to travel with a baby.  First of all, terrorists are very busy.  With the current laws on travelling with liquids, they have a lot of research and development to do working out how to smuggle their lip balm onto the plane in their handbag.  They don’t have spare time to take 1,397 photos of their baby to satisfy the bureaucratic strictures of international travel documentation.

Secondly, when you travel with a baby, everyone on the plane spends most of the flight glaring at you when your baby’s screaming interrupts their inflight movie viewing or precious minutes of snatched sleep.  Everybody knows your face.  They hate you because you take 45 minutes in the toilet changing dirty nappies (though, it has to be said, not as much as you hate yourself as you spend 45 minutes shut into that tiny space, dealing with the dirty nappy while trying to prevent your baby falling into the toilet during unexpected turbulence).

The only people who don’t hate you when you travel with a baby – so it is in the air as on terra firma – are old ladies, who hang around your seat pretending to do half-arsed DVT-preventative stretches while really trying to look at your baby.  You’re twice as buggered with old ladies – they know your face, AND they’re the only ones who call terror hotlines.

Lastly, babies are cute.  I mean even terrorists aren’t that fucked up.

My objections about the passports-for-babies process went unheard, probably because they were never actually voiced to anyone (righteous indignation v apathy: a common dilemma in my day-to-day life), and so eventually we had to go through the same thing with Zadie.  I had a feeling things wouldn’t go smoothly.  Call it my sixth sense, or just my past experience in dealing with these governmental wankers.  There was a pressing imperative to get Zadie’s passport done, having already booked flights for a Hong Kong housing recon for very shortly thereafter.  I was still breastfeeding Zadie at the time and had to take her with me.  So I allocated an afternoon to making sure shit got done.  I asked my nan to come and mind Zadie, all the better for me to only wrangle one kid at the post office.

Rufus, 2 at the time, and I drove to the post office.  As we drove he pinched me continually in the back of the neck with his robot arm toy, at that time almost a permanent appendage.  I relished the luxury of being able to deal with robot arm without also having to contend with a crying baby.  My relaxed countenance was not to last.  We arrived at the post office and queued for a long time, only to be told that we had to have an appointment for lodging passport applications (contrary to any instruction online).  I think the lady at the other counter saw my always barely smoothed facade about to crumble, because she motioned me over and said she’d process it.  Rufus pincered various stationery products off their displays with his robot arm as I began spreading documentation about extravagantly.

Zadie was a much smilier baby than Rufus, and it had taken hours of wrangling and about 685 snaps to get one we thought might be accepted.  It wasn’t (apparently because it exhibited the tiniest bit of red eye).  She wasn’t the only one – when the post office lady put that down on me, my eyes were glowing as if I had just contracted an unquantifiably virulent strain of infective conjunctivitis.  She then said to bring Zadie in to the post office to get her photos done there.  Right.  So you’re gon stand there holding her up with an “invisible” hand, ensuring her eyes are open, mouth is shut, head isn’t on an angle, and she isn’t smiling or laughing.  OK lady.

I despaired.  I remembered standing in the rain outside my house that morning, bending over the car so my neighbour could use my back as a desk as she witnessed Zadie’s photo.  I thought of the $1,800 I’d just spent on flights the day before that we’d never get to take.  The airline meal I’d never get to eat.  The stock Ben Stiller movies I’d not get to see for the 17th time.  The fucking INJUSTICE OF IT ALL.

And then, like the little champ he is, my son brought me back to reality by shouting “MAMA I NEED TO DO A WEE!”.  I wiped the hot tears from my eyes, picked up all the important documents of our life and shoved them in my handbag, grabbed his fat little hand and ran out the door.  Because I knew we wouldn’t make it home, and also because I am vindictive, I let him whizz all over the carpark while I shook the robot arm angrily towards the security camera.  Take that, Australia Post!

We eventually did get an internationally verifiable baby, obviously.  Here is a small sample of the massive selection of photos we ended up with from the first failed attempt.

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May the next two years, when she’s still able to travel on her current passport, go very, very slowly.  Even though she now looks like this and would probably prefer a more flattering identity document.

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. Rhi says:

    Oh I laughed at this! Might just copy-paste for our own story… Tate was 2 weeks old when we got our kids’ (dual) passports done. He wasn’t smiling or pulling faces, but certainly not holding his neck still either. He also had jaundice, so was looking really yellow. I had to go back to the PO twice because my gorgeous friend who witnessed the forms didn’t write his middle name in. I cried. Was horrible. With our big 2 year old, we paid to get photos done, but they stretched her head and she looked awful though probably met the requirements. We re-took them all ourselves. Took all day, I reckon.
    Love this post!!
    x

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Did you just step outside the post office and do one of those “^” symbols and add the middle name in? I would’ve tried 😉

  2. cinova says:

    If there was a prize for the best blog post during the competition, this one would win, hands down! So funny and clever, a classic Jadeluxe post! In my humble opinion, your blog is the bomb. Unlike some others (which shall remain unamed), your blog truly epitomises what this “expat mom bloggers” category should be all about. Keep up the awesome blogging. People who recognise quality writing know they can find it here.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Big-smile inducing comment 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Lisa Barrett says:

    This is totally not avoidance now … it’s addiction. What happens when the contest is over? You aren’t going to stop posting are you? Hope you don’t think I’m a “don’t have a life loser” when I tell you that I look for your posts each day. This one was so funny! Maybe you should get started on that book, and then there will be no need to carry around the equipment (ha-ha!) Lisa

    1. jadeluxe says:

      I could never think you’re a “don’t have a life loser” for doing that, because if I didn’t have people reading it would make me an even bigger loser for posting! (I guess!). Thanks Lisa 🙂

  4. C. says:

    You are fantastically hillarious (and above all, dead-on) and I have a feeling, were we to ever meet, we’d get along perfectly! Yours is a blog I’ll definitely be keeping up with! Klem fra Norge

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Hi C! Having just had a peek at your blog, I think I agree 🙂 What a beautiful picture on your header. Your boy is an angel! I voted for you and I’ll try to remember tomorrow as well. Let’s go top 10!

  5. Love it! Went through the same with Miss5, and then the twins. I was chanting in my head “nanny…mojito’s in the pool…nanny…mojito’s in the pool…” and that’s about all that got me through the process – the end result / destination.

    I love going to the airport just for fun. Nothing like the sheer terror and dread on previously happy travellers’ faces as they see me and three feral, loud, grabby kids walking in. Everyone turns around to stare in shock. Desperately hoping we don’t join their check-in queue. I like to walk up and down as if I’m looking for my flight queue. Their necks just about snap to follow me, mouths open. And then I normally head off to the Arrivals area to pick up hubby or the grandparents.

    If they’re late, or if I have time, I like to go up and browse the duty free, just to give the people who’ve already checked in for their flights the same terror and fear that the 2yr old twins and the 5yr old may be on their flight.

    Brilliant. One of my most favourite masochistic past times!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      That is some of the funniest shit I’ve ever heard. As if I’m not going to try that next time we have to pick someone up from the airport! Genius!
      I must admit recently when I flew for work and a mum with three boys under 5 sat in front of me, I was like “Nooooooooooooooooo this can’t be happening!!”. But of course her kids were completely angelic. Then I just hated her for having such well-behaved kids!

  6. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Oh, dear.
    Ha, adorable photos all.

    We had to get Gabriel’s photo taken in the post office, in a massive rush when he was two and a half weeks old. Hellish! So he even has a different eye-colour to his passport pic now. And when we travelled, one customs officer got us to hold up his face to check (?) while he was asleep in the baby sling.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Oh yeah, I remember that. How can a passport officer honestly tell the difference between two-week-old babies.
      PS How big is Gabriel getting now! Lovely pics 🙂

  7. Becci says:

    Just made me realise my 12 yr old daughter looks nothing like her 6yr old passport. Better renew just in case we get whipped off to Paris (yeah right!). Now I better just go vote for you again….

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks, Becci 🙂 Yep, I’m guessing a 6-year-old and a 12-year-old don’t look much alike. Hope you do get whipped off to Paris!!

  8. Jenny says:

    Loved it! The irony is the confusion that baby photos in passports causes immigration officials. Usually I get asked when taking my two children, ‘Which one is which?’ The answer, ‘Uh, the big one is the one born in 2003, the little one is the one born in 2006’.
    Duh!

  9. EmmaK says:

    yeah getting passports for kids is a nightmare even in the US. There is only one post office in the whole of Baltimore that will even issue a passport after three o’clock (because really should kids have to take the day off to get a passport!) then both parents need to be there – stops child trafficking which is a great incentive – but a headache for us! my sympathies with getting a serious photo

  10. jadeluxe says:

    And they’ll definitely stuff it up the first few times, so really they’ll miss like a week of school. Well done, Department of Immigration.

  11. Jenny says:

    Love this! What is the deal with the “natural expression” rule? IMO a smile is natural- so glad Americans are allowed to smile for their passport photos.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      You’re allowed to smile?? We used to be; they changed it about six years ago. So unfortunate. I actually look like a male terrorist in my photo. It’s scary! 🙂

    2. Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] says:

      One of my photos was done at the Post Office and they specifically told me to NOT smile…and this was in the US. Hmmm….sounds like the IRS, everyone single person gives different answers to the same question. LOL!

  12. Great post! Cracked me up and I had not idea that you couldn’t smile for photos. Funny, funny stuff. erin

  13. Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] says:

    Oh my, loved this! I have almost 18 year old twins who are trying to get their passports for a graduation present of a cruise from their mom. They’ve been denied…now they have to come up with several documents from at least FIVE years ago that have their name and address on them, official documents. Why? I don’t think these girls have ever been out of Maryland.

    I still don’t understand the ‘no smile’ rule. I hate my photo without a smile. UGH!

    Thanks for a great post!

  14. Mayor Gia says:

    HAHAHHA oh man, that passport pic of your baby is freaking adorable.

  15. TriGirl says:

    Wowzas…what a pain in the rear! Nothing to make a baby look *less* like himself than with a neutral look.

  16. mamamzungu says:

    Bwahahah!! Jade, this is hilarious! My favorite is second from bottom row on the right, where Zadie actually does look a little like a terrorist.

    I took Caleb’s first passport photo at 5 weeks old. FIVE WEEKS!!! I had to awkwardly hide my head supporting fingers so long I think I got carpal tunnel. On the application, hair color is “bald” and eye color is “to be determined.” I can’t believe this totally neutral baby pic is good for five years! That’s where the terrorist should be focused – five year olds. Or midgets. Because you can just take a pic of a Gerber Jar and splice it onto a passport and voila.

  17. awwwww… I wish to have little ones running around the house 😉

  18. Delilah says:

    Oh man that is hysterical. I loved the pictures. The one on the 2nd row from bottom on the right is absolutely hilarious. I would pay money to have that one on a passport. Hahahaha!

  19. I love that you let him pee on the side of the building after that debacle! Oh, the hoops we jump through as parents to keep our kids law abiding citizens.
    I hope your travels are smooth and your trip fantastic!

  20. A “neutral expression” really? Because it’s easy to get a baby to do what you want it to, right? Jeez…

    On the bright side, this all made for a hilarious story to share! 🙂

  21. *snort*

    We had Monkey in Australia, and had flights to fly back to Malaysia when he would be 2 weeks old. Yes, you heard that right. TWO WEEKS OLD.

    So at the fresh age of 7 days old, we had to get his passport photo taken. We tried the home way – my brother in law with his fancy SLR camera only managed a bunch of hilarious shots, key of which was the first ever picture of my son flipping the bird.

    We then trooped to a nearby photo shop in Perth to get that freaking passport photo and I remember repeating many times – “They need him to be looking straight, eyes open, neutral expression? He’s ONE WEEK OLD!!”

    We had to put him in a reclining chair, on top of a white cloth which someone had to pull taut (me), while someone else kept a hand on his back (mother-in-law) and someone else (husband) to prod the photographer to please take the photo quickly already as the little one was in between naps and was clearly tired and getting cranky. The photographer (also shop owner) kept walking away to attend to customers so the husband finally took the pictures himself.

    I wish I could post the final result here. Needless to say, there’s usually a lot of oohing and aahing at Immigration.

    I do apologize for my blog post of a comment!

  22. We haven’t even gotten our kids passports yet because the only travelling we do is to visit the grands, and that’s to far flung places in country. I really want to have them though – just as documents. Love these photos! And those cheeks!

  23. You crack me up! We’ve never gotten the child a passport, though we think we’ll need to soon. I can’t imagine having to do it as an infant. Neutral expression. Love it!

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