My nemesis: Picture Day

September 20, 2011

This morning, I looked at the calendar and saw, in red ink, the three words I dread every year: School Picture Day. It’s coming for me, Readers. Tomorrow. I’ll be cowering in fear the rest of today and into tomorrow morning, until I wave Miss D.’s curly-haired head onto the school bus and pray for mercy.

Is there a Picture Day God? If there is, he clearly doesn’t like me and definitely shows no mercy. How did I piss you off, Picture Day God? Why you so mad at me, huh?

Picture Day God nearly destroyed me last year, remember? What? You don’t remember HamsterGate? For that little bit of carnage, click  here. Last year suckity-sucked.

But honestly, every Picture Day is bad business for the T. progeny, and I do pity my girls. Because those sweet girls have been cursed with a mommy who lacks the Hairstyling Gene.  Seriously.  My skill level at hairstyling is

It’s pathetic.  Doesn’t God know to give hairstyling-impaired mommies boy children? If anyone deserved boys, it’s me. But no. God– that sadistic puppy–gave me girl children. And he didn’t just give me girl children, he gave me girls with Indian hair. This  is nothing short of a disaster. I can’t even manage my own hair, and it’s thin little duck fuzz.  How on Earth am I supposed to deal with the thick, curly, temperamental mess that is Indian hair?

I deal with it badly, that’s what I do. Suckage-level badly.  Every morning, the girls and I walk to the bus stop and I marvel at the braided, bowed, pigtailed, barrette-laden girls of other mommies. They are specimens of wonderment and beauty. My girls, in contrast, look like their hair was attacked with a weed whacker.

The hair of my girls is disobedient, mercurial. Just try to contain that stuff, I swear.  It’s a force of nature. No matter how I try to tame it, the stuff sproings free of any styling accoutrement known to man.

I think the worst thing about picture day is that it’s concrete proof of my failure.  Those school pictures expose me for the fraud that I am.  What kind of mommy lets her children attend school looking like that? Good heavens, are those children raised by wolves? Just look at them–poor, unkempt, static-headed little hooligans.  It’s shameful.

Which is why I never fill out the order form to purchase school pictures. Not ever. Why torture myself? And excuse me, what kind of arrogance is at work with the portrait company, who requires you to pay in full for picture packages before a single frame is even snapped?  I mean, who commits to pictures without being allowed to deem them decent first?  Why invest cash in the unknown?

Well, in my case, it’s not the unknown, because I know already that my offspring will look like one of the Artful Dodger’s orphans in the finished photos.  Consider the history. Miss D.:  refused to smile and had hooded, toad-like eyes in her kindergarten picture. In first grade, she was missing more teeth than a pirate with the scurvy. Second grade, I forgot that it was picture day, so she’s clad in a frayed Superman t-shirt and has toothpaste on her face. Third grade? Unfortunate ears and HamsterGate face.

This year, I fear we will fare no better. Miss D. has braces on both rows of teeth and is adamant that she needs to grow out her bangs. Bangs growing out = follicular suicide.  Nobody, not even queen Gwyneth, looks decent when the bangage is growing out. It’s just an awkward affair, no matter how you slice it.

So wish me luck, Readers. Pray to the Picture Day God for me. Not that he listens. Because this year? I now have two girls with picture days. I’m smelling failure already.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Katybeth September 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

Picture Day Today-in our house! God clearly likes me better than he likes you!! He gave me a BOY. I am hopeless when it comes to hair…my mother is a hair genius and therefore I never had to learn how to put in a pony tail holder (it is always the mothers fault) HINT I just gave you someone to blame for you hair inaptness.
In spite of my smugness…I wish you luck and the favor of the Hair Gods and Barrette fairies!


C @ Kid Things September 20, 2011 at 9:46 am

Good luck! I still have about a month to go until picture day, I think, but last year was hell for me, too. Though for entirely different reasons than hair. I have 2 boys doing picture day this year now and I swear if one of them forgets their money to give their money even though it’s RIGHT THERE IN THEIR BAG, I just may go (more) insane. That was some messed up stuff last year.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:19 am


That happened to me one year, too! She came home from school with the whole packet/money still in her backpack. Agggg…


Erica@PLRH September 20, 2011 at 10:03 am

I have two boys and let me tell you, they don’t give a rats ass.

There isn’t a single school picture that I liked as a child because I too had wild, untamed hair. Since watching Dances with Wolves, I’ve dubbed the look Stands-With-A-Fist Hair.

Good luck.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:20 am


I’m stealing that!


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday September 20, 2011 at 10:06 am

My hair is naturally curly but as a kid I always combed it and wore it in a ponytail and you couldn’t really tell.
When I was 9 I actually wore it down, curly to picture day. I put mousse in it and everything! I thought I looked SO good.
…then one of the boys in my class told me that my hair was “the messiest hair he’s ever seen.”
And I was devastated.
I didn’t end up smiling in that picture.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:21 am


I hope that little turd got a kick in the pants for that comment. :(


Christine @ Coffees & Commutes September 20, 2011 at 10:25 am

I have to admit, I have the odd nightmare of picture days of years past. My picture days. Scary stuff!


Kate September 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

You had me giggling the whole time. I have tempestuous curls myself, uncontainable, rebel hair.
My mom didn’t care. I had short hair until second grade, and she didn’t even brush it! One picture day I smile proudly with knotty curls close to my head, a holey red shirt and bright purple shorts. That picture is still on display at my dad’s desk.
My girls have my hair. Their’s is a little more reasonable, but still, it’s wild. Picture day – well – if they feel good, I’m proud. Soon enough they’ll care too much about the right bangs (good God, curly bangs are cruel!) and will slowly learn that acceptance is the only answer. Be wild, little Minxes, be wild. (And, Kitch, never fear, any curly headed mama knows, oh she knows.)


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:22 am


The curly bangs are just the devil! Talk about awkward, right?


Kristen @ Motherese September 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Lies! I simply don’t believe that two minxes as cute as yours could look anything but fabulous in any picture. Lies, I tell you!

And, if they should happen to look a wee bit scary in their photos, think of the delight their bad school pictures will bring to future dates when you whip them out at inopportune moments!


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:23 am


You have a point there. Maybe I should order the pictures just for blackmail purposes.


Amber September 20, 2011 at 11:01 am

Why is it that those without hair talent have girls whose hair is a beast to control? I hear you, sister. Maybe husband will do your girls’ hair for you; mine does because he is offended by my lack of desire and/or talent. Also because he thinks kids going out in whatever I could force them to wear with food stuffs on their faces makes us out to be bad parents. I always tell him if they do, it’s because they are jealous with my care-free attitude. ; )


elizabeth September 20, 2011 at 11:44 am

When I was in Chicago in July it was super-humid there and even though I had spent the entire day indoors, my hair still resembled the Bride of Frankenstein by 5 PM and I had to high-tail it down Michigan Ave to Sephora in order to get some emergency hair products that would somehow work.

Leave-in conditioners are your friends, and a huge bottle of Infusium 23 (ideal if you can get it at a warehouse club) lasts FOREVER.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:24 am


Must. Google. Infusium 23. Thanks for the tip, girlfriend!


Jennifer September 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Thank goodness I know how to do hair. If I were closer I would come help you.


Nobody September 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm

good luck on picture day! i don’t have the hair styling gene either. my daughter’s curly mop is most often springing wildly about her head, and no amount of barrettes or hair ties can tame it. i’ve given up on trying.

my son is going through an awkward stage… every time he takes pictures he has a goofy fake smile pasted to his face, and doesn’t understand why i won’t buy them ahead of time. how do you tell your kid that? “well honey, i know you’re going to look goofy and unkempt, so i’m not going to bother buying pictures again this year”. *sigh* he’ll understand some day.


jessica September 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I am glad to know the inability to do hair is due to a genetic failure, so is not really any fault of mine. I have had short hair 95 percent of my life and don’t really know how to curl, french braid or fluff….my poor daughter.
At leaset now I know I am in good company.


Tiffany September 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I never buy pictures either…even though our school does them at open house so you can actually be there!!! Good luck!!!


pamela September 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Oh this is hysterical.


subwow September 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I have one next week too. Every year it ends up in tears because my youngest does not know how to smile naturally for the camera. He is my son indeed.

I dread it.

And what indeed is the fudgery the gall of asking us to pay on the first day of school?! How much money are those making? And who gets to choose the vendor?! This here being Chicago I can smell corruption already!

Oh, sorry. Got carried away.

May the picture day god have pity on your tomorrow.

P.s. have you seen the picture day episode of “The Middle”?


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:26 am


I haven’t seen that episode–I’m sure it’s good stuff. Had to laugh at the Chicago/corruption comment. My dad used to work the voting polls back in the day, and the same guys kept coming in to vote again, suddenly with different names. He just shook his head.


Maria September 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Ok. Tears streaming down my face. Because my hair is always a mess. No matter how many God-awful chemical treatments I do to try to make it look more “normal.” It is a losing battle that is keeping my hairdresser rich.

God gave me boys. Boys with cowlicks. In odd places. Boys who refuse to wear product, acknowledge the power of the mighty comb. Boys with hair that grows with every breath they take. Like I have time to take them every three weeks.

Picture day sucks. Even when you are the teacher. Especially when you are the teacher. The lighting is bad, the angle is worse and you end up in the freaking yearbook for all eternity. (sigh)

Hoping there is no hamster drama…


Cathy September 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm

After 12 years of elementary school under my belt, I just don’t give a shit. Those moms all hate me anyway – let them judge. And, I’m totally with you on the whole buy before you try crap. You get nailed at school (twice a year in my district – fall and spring) and then with every sports season. Next thing you know, you have drawers you didn’t even know existed chuck full of pictures you’ll never frame or do anything with except feel guilty about for leaving them there. See – I told you I have it all worked out.


Heather September 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Just for you I’m on my knees thanking whatever Gods are out there that I have 2 boys. If I had girls they would be a mess. I do ponytails and nothing else…

As for picture day?? Eli has now worn the exact same shirt for picture day 3, count them 3, years in a row. I’m pretty certain that strips me of ANY mommy of the year awards I was in the not so close running for!!!


Sherri September 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Good God – it’s like you and I are on a parallel track here…. I, too, had to deal with picture day today. Memories of past years when my Milo would, apparently (according to his teachers), go stiff as a board on the picture stool and utter a low, animal-like growl or the dealing with the years (and years and years) of braces haunt me. And I, too, have a daughter with thick, wavy, textured hair AND I, too, lack the hair-styling gene, so… we’ve had many years of hair that looked like a lion’s mane, a Halloween wig of some kind, like she lived in the woods for a couple of days and came out to get her picture taken… you know what I mean. Anyway… I actually like all the pictures. Now, they either crack me up or make me get all sentimental :-).


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:28 am


He growled?! That is awesome! I’d love to growl at anyone who takes my picture, because I hate it. At least Milo isn’t afraid to let it all hang out.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes September 21, 2011 at 4:20 am

I can feel your pain. Mine have my naturally straight-as-a-rod-flyaway hair. I don’t how they manage it, but each and every morning they leave the house looking like a mongoose attacked them.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 8:30 am


I like the mongoose reference! I always tell the girls that a beaver slept in their hair overnight and started building a dam…


SuziCate September 21, 2011 at 5:32 am

You crack me up. The hairdresser here got boys, however through the years I’ve saved my friends who have girls with the lovely little locks I love to braid, curl, brush, and pin up!


Jane September 21, 2011 at 6:34 am

Even with boys I, too, dread picture day. It’s not the outfit or the hair. It’s the goofy faces or half shut eyes that I get with those pre-paid pics. Yuck!


Jenna September 21, 2011 at 7:41 am

I think you should buy the pictures anyway, no matter how bad. My sisters and I have TERRIBLE school pictures from our youth (yep, growing out bangs, bangs in our eyes, greasy hair, sleepy face syndrome, etc) and they are the funniest thing to look at. I get so many laughs from them that I’m almost grateful we didn’t have pristinely beautiful school shots.


Privilege of Parenting September 21, 2011 at 8:43 am

Yes, wishing all good picture day luck. It seemed to take my older one’s class until twelfth grade to figure this one out, but this year they all shared a common viking helmet for their individual pictures (which has nothing to do with school spirit, as their mascot is a gorilla), whatever their message, the helmet obliterates all hair problems and distracts the eye with pleasing horns. Down with the camera! Vivre the Viking!


Gail September 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

great post! My dad used to work the voting polls back in the day, and the same guys kept coming in to vote again, suddenly with different names. He just shook his head.


Stephane September 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Boys can be a problem on picture day, too. From day one we’ve had picture-from-Mars moments. (Lemme send you the newborn picture of my eldest who was *born* with a mohawk. Or maybe the one of my youngest, who, for a long time, sported a fairly electrifying finger-in-the-socket look.) This year, the youngest decided he’d spurn my hoped-for all-boy look by insisting on buttoning his flannel shirt up all the way to his eyeballs.

Me: No, no, Sam. That’s why you have the tee shirt. You leave the shirtfront open and we’ll roll your sleeves up and you’ll look very handsome.

Later that morning, I drop by the school to do a little volunteering and coincidentally, Sam’s class is next up for pictures. Aha! I’ll just step in and take a look, and make any necessary last-minute adjustments. Crap! Sam’s shirt is buttoned up tighter than Scrooge’s purse–again!

Me (hurriedly unbuttoning the shirt): Sam! I’d really like this to be a nice picture. Will you please leave your shirt unbuttoned?!
Sam: I don’t like PLAID, mom! EVERYONE is wearing plaid!
Me: !?

Walking down the school hallway later that afternoon to collect my hoodlums, I spot Sam. Once more, he’s got his shirt buttoned top to bottom.

Me: Sam, did you leave your shirt unbuttoned for the picture?!!
Me: SAM?!
Sam: No, mom.

Someone recently tried to assure me that Sam’s defiance and stubbornness will translate to determination and follow-through one day. I hope I live that long. : P And I hope your daughters’ photos turn out better than experience has led you to expect!


TKW September 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm


Sam is a trailblazer! Tim Gunn has nothing n that kid!


Barbara September 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Man, you hit a theme with this one! The comments are a scream.
I’m not sharing this so don’t ask, but when I transferred all photo albums to computer, I did a collage of all my school photos. (Remember how old I am….talk about a time machine! From 1940 to the 50’s.) Anyway, there are some nightmares in there but not one compares to the school photos of one of my sons. I have never, ever, seen anything like the photos this one kid took. They look like mug shots of a drunk homeless person….with fleas. OMG. His passport photo would have rung warning bells all over TSA.
And now he’s nearly bald. :) Hah. Don’t tell me God isn’t watching. And tallying.


Naptimewriting September 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

My sweet, darling Kitch.
Adorable felt fedora or cute skater pageboy hat or simple wool cap. You live in winter-y country, it is fall, and nothing goes with boots like a chapeau.

Also, dearest love, I am sending mine with a note pinned to the bottom of his shirt that says “Let him make a silly face. We want it that way.” Because I think 12 years of crossed eyes is funnier than sleepy, droopy half smiles forced out by a humorless stranger. Plus, goofy pictures PISS OFF grandparents, which is one of my life’s ambitions.

Miss you, minx.


TKW September 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Dearest Naptime,

Miss you, miss you, hundred times over. And Peanut’s curls and Butterbaby’s thighs. Those thighs were gold.

God, I wish we were walking around the ferry building again, eating our weight in cheese. Especially, I miss the way you eyed those Cheese Boys and said, “give us something good.” Dang, those boys worked it.

I also adore a girl who says “chapeau.” I expect no less of you. So many times lately, I am tempted to pick up the phone, but then remember, “Who needs a pit viper hissing in the ear?”

But you are never far from my heart. I love you.


Jane September 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thanks for putting my complaining about the crossed eyes/droopy smiles in perspective. You are absolutely right! Hugs to you, Nap!


Naptimewriting September 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Jane, I would never minimize your frustrations, for they are real and you are adorable.

That said, I told Peanut to wind up his best face for picture day and he has already refused to go to school that day. I wonder if they’ll let *me* go and stick out my tongue.


Rocky Mountain Woman September 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm

My boys typically didn’t even tell me that it was picture day, so they always looked shaggy and kind of like they didn’t have a mother to take care of them…


Dawn King September 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Picture day? Sends shivers of bad feelings down my spine. Hated picture day. I always looked terrible. Always. Hope it went better for yours!


TKW September 23, 2011 at 11:26 am


I just want hair like your beautiful baby. :)


unicorn September 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

This all reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbs’ strips when he had picture day. He went to mom and asked for Crisco. She thought it was for a craft project. Calvin styled his own hair into 2 spikes with the Crisco and named himself Astroboy. Not only that, but he then takes his shirt off for the camera guy and reveals his marker face sketch on his belly (it’s the 3rd one down).

The other time Calvin made funny faces the whole time.


Mary Lee September 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

Dang! I had a pithy comment all written and the internet went out. Pith doesn’t happen to me all that often and I’ve already forgotten what it was.

Will tell you that Picture Day is no kinder on boys. I assume that’s why I haven’t seen any school photos of my grandchildren in years.

Remember comic strip Calvin’s school photos?

As for the Minxes hair, I think all that energy is precious! Look on the bright side, that’s one thing you won’t be blamed for.


TexasTrailerParkTrash September 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

My male teacher in 4th grade, Mr. Akins (whom I adored), used to call me “Eloise” because my hair looked like it was combed with a fork. I think that was the year my mother gave me a perm in an attempt to try to bend my stick straight hair to her will. Like the little girl in the “Peanuts” cartoons, she had naturally curly hair. Not long after that, she whacked off most of my hair and I was mistaken for a boy until I finally got boobs around the age of 56.


Lanita September 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Don’t feel bad. You are not alone in your hatred for picture day. But just remember, the very pictures you hate can be used against them when they get older. You know, when you are interviewing future sons-in-law.


ck September 26, 2011 at 2:43 am

Bangs might be your best line of defense, TKW. Because once they ignore all warnings and go bangs, it’s no longer your fault. Nothing is. Take if from a Jersey girl who knows.

PS: Loved this line! “In first grade, she was missing more teeth than a pirate with the scurvy.”


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