Family / Parenting

When Picture Day Catches You by Surprise

It began as one of those days where you wake up 15 minutes before your alarm because your bladder has decided that there will be no more sleeping. But after you have passed water, you crawl back in bed convincing yourself that you can fall back asleep for just a few minutes only to wake up in a panic because you are running late. Very late.

I ran into the kitchen to get the breakfasts made and start packing the lunches. Clanking and clattering and dropping every other thing I touched, I heard my third-grader Levi at the top of the stairs. Levi: OHANDMOM?!? Me: Can you please not yell from upstairs?? I’m making your breakfast and your lunches and I can’t really hear you…and my name is not OHANDMOM!!

Levi walked down stairs still in his pajamas.

Me: Why aren’t you dressed? I left your clothes on your chair last night so you wouldn’t have to pick them out. Go get Asher, would you? He’ll be late for middle school.

Levi: It’s picture day today. I want to wear a nice shirt. And maybe a tie.

Me: WHAT??? No it isn’t Picture Day today. It’s tomorrow!

Levi: Ms. O told us yesterday that today is picture day.

Me: Are you sure? I have it in the calendar for tomorrow.

Levi: That’s what she told us.

Shit. Fuck. No big deal. I’ll find him a nice shirt to wear right after I give the boys breakfast. And if it’s not Picture Day today, he can wear another nice shirt tomorrow, too. It’s fine. But does he even have two nice shirts? I’m going to have to iron. I know I’m going to have to iron. Shit. I don’t have time to iron! It’s not today. It couldn’t be today.

Me: Levi, did your teacher say to you that today is Picture Day or did she say that Picture Day is on Thursday and Friday at your school but that your class takes pictures tomorrow?

Levi: I’m not sure.

Me: YOU’RE NOT SURE?!? Ok, well put your jeans and socks on and don’t put your shirt on, yet, and I’ll try to find out what the deal is.

Who do I know in that class? I recognized maybe two people from Back to School Night. Why don’t I know more people? Maybe I should actually get involved in my children’s schools. (shudder). Do I have those two parents’ email addresses? Should I PM them on Facebook? Fuck it, I’ll just have to be that mom who REPLIES ALL to that email from the Class Parents with a frantic message that introduces me as that mom who doesn’t have her shit together, doesn’t read correspondence from school, and waits until the last minute to find out what’s going on.

Levi: Mom, did you figure out if it’s Picture Day?


Levi: I’m cold without a shirt on.

Me: I’m sorry you’re cold, but I don’t know what you should wear because we don’t know if it’s Picture Day, and I have to get the lunches done and I .. and I … just wait a second.

No one has replied yet –probably because they’re ironing shirts and dresses and combing hair and practicing smiles that don’t look maniacal. Shit, combing hair. When was the last time he took a shower? He was going to wash his hair tonight … for Picture Day… TOMORROW. Is that the time?? I can’t iron a shirt right now. Fuck it, Perspective, Deborah. Perspective. He should just wear the shirt I picked out. It’s a t-shirt, but it’s fine. Lots of kids wear t-shirts on picture day. Now he can look like every other feral creature in school.*

I started muttering to myself while shoving food into lunch bags, and the boys giggled as I became increasingly unhinged. And then a tin container of baby carrots went flying. It hit the floor with a CRASH, louder than any of us expected. So I shrieked. I shrieked a shriek that was less about the flying carrots and more about releasing the anxiety that was American Ninja Surprise Picture Day.


I took a breath. The boys and I stared at each other for a beat, and then we all started laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Laughing with and at Mom

And then I got the email … and the Facebook message … and another email. Picture Day is tomorrow.

Me: Levi, Picture Day is tomorrow. Go put on your t-shirt.

He was still laughing as he went upstairs, loving the fact that his mother is a whackadoodle.

Asher: Mom, I think I want to wear a tie today.

Fuck you, Asher.

Me: Yeah. Time to go, Asher.

*Disclaimer: I do not think that if your child wears a t-shirt for Picture Day that he or she is destined for juvie. And yes, I fully agree that you should support your children’s independence by allowing them to choose their own clothes–even on Picture Day. You have my blessing to mock me and my ridiculous need to make our children look like Alex P. Keaton on Picture Day.

boys and alex p keaton

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