I’m not very picky about most things as a mom. I let my kids wear whatever the hell they want, wherever the hell they want. Phaedra wears her purple ankle boots with every single outfit (except on Mondays, because that’s gym day), and I don’t say shit. Socks don’t even need to match. Halloween costume to the grocery store? Bring it on. I don’t even complain when I pick up the kids from grandpa’s house after work and discover Rob has dressed Bella and Surrey in all black and given them each other’s underwear.
But on Picture Day? Uh uh. That’s my day. Granted, I give them a little leeway. I usually narrow down the outfit choice to two or three candidates, and let the kid make the final decision. But there is one thing that needs to be my way or the motherfucking highway: the hairstyle. Your hair will be brushed. It will be styled with a matching barrette or rubber band that complements the outfit. It will not look weird. I have come close to sending my kids to school with a note specifying to the photographer how I do and do not want their hair to look in their picture, but I wasn’t ready to step it up to that level of crazy.
I’ve come a tad bit closer to that level in recent years.
When Phaedra was in preschool, I couldn’t get her ready for her first Picture Day. You have to drag your kid in on a Tuesday at 11:17 am for picture day during pre-k, and I couldn’t get the time off work. I laid out her outfit and barrettes the night before, and explained to Rob how I wanted Phaedra’s hair to be styled. “Just sweep it to the side and put these barrettes in,” I told him. He did that, and then made the executive decision to go above and beyond what I asked him to do with her hair. “Jacked up” is the term that usually comes to mind when I see this picture.
Rob swept her hair to the side, and then just kept on sweepin’ all the way to the back of her head. She also looks like she has a goddamn comb-over. When we got the pictures back, Rob and I discussed her hair using our outdoor voices, during which time he cordially invited me to do our kids’ hair myself, since I cared so much about it. So that’s exactly what I do — every year, since Phaedra’s first year of kindergarten, I’ve gone in late to work so that I could take the time to make sure everyone’s hair looks good.
Except last year. Ohhhhhhh, last year. Last year I could do Phaedra and Bella’s hair, but not Surrey. Once again, her picture day was later in the morning on one of her non-school days, and I didn’t have coverage at the library. But hey, it’s cool! Rob’s had four years and two more kids’ worth of practice doing girl hair! He’s got this.
“Now Rob, when you do Surrey’s hair tomorrow, part her hair on the side, put one barrette on the side of her head, and leave her hair down.”
“Alright. Sure you trust me to do that?”
“I’m sure it will be fine.”
Picture Day comes, and I receive the following text while at work doing librarian things: “Does this look okay?”
Oh sweet Jesus, we’ve got a repeat disaster on our hands. I wanted to text him the following questions: “Why is the butterfly clip sticking out at that angle?” “Why does her part start so far over on her head, and in the wrong direction?” “Why does it look like you combed her hair with your fingers?” Instead, I texted back, “Well, I usually part her hair on the other side. Can you switch it?” Five minutes later, I received this picture with a text that read, “Better?”
The part is better, but why is he sticking the barrette in such an awkward spot? It’s not just me, right? Why is it that I can take one look at this child’s hair and say, “Nope, wrong,” but my husband’s Y chromosome prevents him from seeing this? I cringingly send him yet another text, saying, “Can you move her barrette higher up on her head?” knowing I have fully crossed over the line of bullshit that my husband will put up with from me. After ten more minutes, I get a text from him: “Like this?”
This picture is crucial for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, NO, NOT LIKE THIS. Where the fuck did her barrette go? This is too unnervingly close to the Phaedra Preschool Disaster that we only speak about using tense looks and by saying, “What?” and “Nothingggg!” to each other. It’s also worth mentioning that Surrey looks progressively more annoyed with each picture, further illustrating the fact that Surrey and Rob are basically the same person in a gender-swap form. Also, please note that at this point he is taking the picture in the car, meaning they’re already about to walk in the door of the preschool.
It’s crunch time. Time to throw my Hail Mary and hit “send” on one final, neurotic text. I decide to demonstrate on myself exactly how I want the barrette positioned on her head, saying, “Can you please move her barrette further up and forward on her head? Like this?”
Please note that I took this picture at work, meaning any of my coworkers or students could have walked right in to see me pointing very confidently at my head while taking a selfie. But having to explain yet another strange thing I’m doing in my office to a student (who clearly just wants to slowly back out and promise himself to always knock first before entering my office) would be worth it to have a good school picture.
I get this text back.
“OOPS SORRY TOO LATE THEY JUST CALLED HER SHE JUST WENT IN.”
Caps lock emphasis his, not mine.
He then says, “I just took the barrette out, and they fixed her hair. I’m sure it’s fine.”
I mean, is it or isn’t it? It was a hellish month-long wait to find out what fresh horror would await me in her backpack when those pictures came home. This is what fifteen texts within thirty minutes about barrette placement gets you in my house:
See? It was fine, and even though I did get my texting privileges revoked for awhile, Rob wasn’t too terribly annoyed with me. But Picture Day is coming up again in a few weeks, and the odds are looking frighteningly good that Rob is going to have to do this all over again.
Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed being married, and “he can’t put a barrette in a 4 year old’s hair correctly to save his life” is going to look super weird on the divorce papers.
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