When you find out you’re going to have a baby, what do you do? You prepare yourself with an arsenal of stuff. You stock the closet with diapers, the drawers with adorable onesies and footie pajamas, and the nursery with special furniture.
But what you don’t anticipate is the need, later on down the road, for a whole different arsenal of stuff. Stuff like tie-dyed T-shirts, outlandish hats, tall and crazy patterned socks, and neon…well, everything.
Unless your kids are home-schooled, you will inevitably need these seemingly random things on a regular basis when their school decides to send home a last-minute flyer announcing the event that prompts sighs and eyerolls from moms everywhere: Spirit Week.
It may be called something different in your kids’ school: Rally Days, Red Ribbon Week, Fill-in-the-Blanks Awareness Week. But whatever alias it goes by, it’s still the same thing — a series of school days when kids dress according to a different daily theme. Fun for them, but not so much fun for the parents who are in charge of putting together an acceptable ensemble of clothing items that literally no one ever keeps on hand.
Look, I have trouble getting my kids’ outfits together on a regular day. I can’t even count the number of mornings I’ve sent them out the door hoping no one notices the wrinkles or the fact that one of my sons is wearing his brother’s jeans that are too freaking short. So when it’s “1960s Day” and I have to track down the fringed vest and peace-sign sunglasses I bought for the last “1960s Day,” I can’t help feeling a little frazzled.
Maybe I could get my shit together and come up with one decent outfit. But no, tomorrow is “Funky Hat Day,” and I have to somehow procure the appropriate headwear. It can’t just be a baseball cap, though — it has to be funky. And it can’t be the one funky hat we do own, which happens to look like the iPhone poop emoji and is, therefore, unsuitable for school. Sigh.
I always envy mothers of long-haired girls on “Crazy Hair Day,” because they’ve got plenty of options. (Have you seen the hairstyle on Pinterest that looks like soda pouring from a bottle? I die!) I’m the mother of short-haired boys, and outside of spiking it up a little bit, which doesn’t even look all that different and falls flat within an hour or two, there’s not much I can do. This means I’m hauling ass to the drugstore to find temporary colored hairspray or something similar (which will, of course, rub off on my couch and leave a festive ring around my bathtub).
And “Pajama Day”? If my kids aren’t sleeping in the buff or in their undies, they’re wearing their old, toddler-sized pajamas that are so short they look like capris (but they insist “still fit” simply because they can shimmy into them). Either that, or they’re still sleeping in shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter, forcing me to buy seasonally appropriate sleepwear that they’ll wear to school once and then deem “too hot to sleep in.”
Every Friday, my kids are supposed to wear their school colors, so I have to stay on top of the laundry successfully enough to have a selection of red and gray outfits at the ready. When our state’s sports teams have an important game, the kids are encouraged to wear — you guessed it — team apparel. A couple of weeks ago, I bought the ugliest fluorescent orange shirts you ever saw because the next day was “Wear Orange to Combat Bullying Day” (because we all know the color orange is a proven bully repellant).
Keeping track of these things is difficult enough when you have one kid, but when you have multiple children across multiple schools, it’s a logistical nightmare. I have three in elementary and one in middle school, and sometimes their schools have Spirit Week at the same time. But, while Monday is, say, “Twin Day” at one school (dress like your bestie! Whee!), it’s “Dress Like a Superhero Day” at the other.
I have trouble calling my kids by the right names, so to accurately remember who is supposed to be dressed like what on which day — and have the proper clothing and accessories on hand (and clean) — requires a level of brain power that I have trouble summoning, especially in the hours before I’m adequately caffeinated.
I know that these days are supposed to foster a sense of community and pride within the schools. I get it. It’s a noble cause. I want my kids to feel like they’re a part of things and to realize the importance of participation, so that’s why you can find me rummaging through last year’s Halloween costumes for a cape, buying four camouflage T-shirts, and frantically texting my neighbor at 7 a.m. to see if she’s got any red and gray face paint. It’s important to them, and that makes it important to me. But I don’t have to like it.
So for anyone whose kids have not yet reached school age, I humbly offer this tidbit of advice: It’s never too early to start stocking up on the most random, weird items. Get yourself a big box and fill it with hippie beads, sunglass-printed socks, floppy fedoras, various colors of temporary hair dye (and a bottle of Soft Scrub for that bathtub ring).
That way, when your kid comes home and announces that tomorrow is “Dress Like a 1960s Superhero With a Funky Hat and Crazy Socks for Flu Season Awareness Day,” you’ll be the mom who has it covered.