How To Lose Your Confidence As A Parent In Twenty Minutes Or Less

February 20, 2008

Today’s lesson: if you are not, always and every day, prepared for the demands that your child’s school or daycare might make upon you, you will – I guarantee you – be made to feel like the most worthless, incompetent parent that ever bore or received spawn.

Last week, it was Valentine’s Day. “She needs to bring Valentines to school tomorrow,” Her Bad Father (who usually does most of the daycare pick-ups and so is more usually the recipient of this kind of information) informed me on the eve of Valentine’s Day. “36 of them. Signed with her name but not addressed to anyone.”

Which meant, of course, a late-night dash to the nearest all-hours last-minute things store, whereupon hideous Valentines imprinted with licensed characters were purchased and brought home to be forged in her name.

And then, later that night: “Also, she needs to wear something red to school tomorrow.”

Which, fine. Nothing that two cups of espresso and a little pre-dawn laundry cycle couldn’t take care of.

And then, yesterday: “She needs to bring a family picture to school tomorrow. It’s Family Picture Day.”


We do not have any current family pictures. That is, rather, we have upwards of 10,000 pictures featuring Wonderbaby and one or the other of us and/or friends and/or extended family members, but these are all a) entirely digital, b) tending toward individual portraiture and/or group portraiture that excludes one of the more significant members of the family (it is almost always me taking the picture, and so from the evidence of our digital photo archives one would presume that Wonderbaby does not have a mother), and c) representative of situations that tend more or less to the embarassing (Wonderbaby bewigged, Wonderbaby naked and bewigged, me naked and bewigged, etc, etc.)

So, we had nothing. No family picture for Wonderbaby to take to school and share with her friends. We were facing – I was facing – the prospect of sending my child, at age two, into the deeply disappointing experience of being the lone child in the group who doesn’t have anything for show ‘n’ tell, or no cupcakes to contribute to the bake sale, or whatever, because her mother sucks ASS.

So I sent her to school with this:

Was that wrong?

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    Mrs. Kitty February 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Yes I have ALREADY at BEFORE 9:00 AM received my phone call from the school telling me what a horrible mother I am! That’s a new record, for them to have me in tears before 11:00 AM.
    I wish I was smart enough to homeschool!

    TZT February 20, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Wow. I can almost smell the mousse. Freaking hilarious!

    If the humor of that photo is lost on her daytime caretakers, you may want to consider finding new ones.

    Birchsprite February 20, 2008 at 11:35 am

    that photo is the best thing I’ve seen in ages… it certainly cheered me up today :)

    nomotherearth February 20, 2008 at 11:40 am

    We are the family represented in your B) scenario, so that’s why I make us get a professional photo each year at Christmas (if I didn’t, the boys would certainly think that their mother abandoned them from early infancy).

    Yup to 36 Valentines too (I had made 20 and then had to scramble last minute when I found out I needed 16 more..)

    Cursing Mama February 20, 2008 at 11:40 am

    you were so right!

    Maddy February 20, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Yup us too. I’ve been caught out by all of those but the family picture is always the killer. I think it must be our un-American traits that we NEVER go and have the studio portrait taken every year.

    I’m the one that takes the photos so we’re never all in one shot by definition.

    Next time I shall just cut out ‘perfect’ family picture from a magazine and glue the relevant child in place.

    Anonymous February 20, 2008 at 11:59 am

    hARR i love that pic catherine perfect choice for family day photos…..there are probably no pics around here with all of us in them…i always look a whiter shade of pale in photos and sometimes have to take a second look to find my ghostly presence in them hahaha….LAVANDULA

    Don Mills Diva February 20, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I LOVE that picture. A few years ago I sent it to my co-worker saying it was my brother and family. I watched her squirm for AGES before I burst out laughing!

    Law Student Hot Mama February 20, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    1. That picture is awesome.

    2. Your kid’s daycare needs to calm down. My husband is in Iraq – if they demanded a recent family picture of me, I’d probably return one that is a lot less nice than the one you sent with her. By less nice, I mean my middle finger would probably be raised in the foreground.

    motherbumper February 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    How does Wonderdad get that much volume in his hair? Inquiring minds want to know.

    There is nothing wrong with pulling a Phoebe Buffay. Heck, I’ll probably end up sending Bumper with a new frame avec sample photo someday soon.

    Beck February 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    We’ve just shrugged and sent the monsters in with a handful of pictures because REALLY we don’t do that Sears photo studio stuff.
    Awesome group shot – you guys are mulletastic!

    Robbin February 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    The last family photo we had together was for our church directory and it sucked the proverbial…

    Every moment of Harry’s life is documented, but we have exactly ONE picture of Kris and I together and absolutely none to prove we are all related.

    kittenpie February 20, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    We rarely remember photos for the photo board either, because like you, it’s all digital right now. And, well, we don’t have the kind of printer that can print out something resembling an actual picture. Sad, but true.

    Hannah February 20, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Those picture requests usually result in me frantically trying to take a picture and then printing it myself. The weirdest by far was “bring a picture of mommy wearing a hat”.

    Amy U. February 20, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Oh this town has so needed you.


    Heather February 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Why is it that it never occurs to others to take a photo of an entire family for them? I too am almost always the one taking the photos. I have to ask point blank for someone else to use the camera once in a while.

    I love that photo.

    Deep Fried Yankee With Bad 80's Hair February 20, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    You are always welcome to use my family’s photo when you need it.

    mommyof2galz February 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    that picture is so funny! lol :0)

    caramama February 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    That photo is fantastic!

    It seems like these requests are awful last minute… Can’t they tell you all sooner?

    Julie Pippert February 20, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Within a year, I predict you will:

    * have begun to anticipate this sort of thing, thereby purchasing large stocks of all manner of items (posterboard, colored paper, stock paper, holiday-themed cards on clearance etc.) that you then need a cabinet to provide storage so you’ll become an IKEA web site addict

    * utterly suspend all aspirations of greatness (because nobody can compete with the best scrapbooking and craft mommy so why bother) and will aim always for “did do” which is about three ticks below “good enough” in some cases but is generally “good enough” and that’s the right bar by my estimation.

    Or maybe that’s just me.

    Chicagoland Mamacita! February 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Ugh – Our preschool sprung this one on us last fall. Bring in a family picture for the class segment on “We Are Thankful For…Our Family”

    It was absurd. Not a single picture of the three of us could be found beyond 3 months of age. After that, everything was Me + Boy or Husband + Boy. (Boy is now 2) So that’s what I brought in – two pics.

    Later I checked out the family book on display in the classroom – and most had to do the same thing. Hardly anyone had one family pic. EVEN THE SCHOOL DIRECTOR – whose son is in class – had two pictures! I got over my angst immediately. And began to chill out more in general about this stuff.

    I’ll submit your photo next year.

    Angela February 20, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    OMG I’m dying here. That photo is hilarious!

    I’m thinking, and I don’t think we have a nice photo of the three of us at all. No, we do have one from his first birthday almost a year ago. Hm, and it’s digital, like all our pics. We’d have to go to the store to get ink and photo paper to print one if this project was sprung on us.

    toyfoto February 20, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Teachers are mean. That’s all I’m saying. That photo should fix them.

    Carmen February 20, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    You have photos of Wonderbaby naked and bewigged?? and better yet, of yourself naked and bewigged?? I have no such photos. I have been slacking BIG time. I’m grabbing the camera right now…”C’mon kids…picture time!”

    MommyTime February 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    OMG that is seriously the best and funniest family photo I have ever seen. It reminds me of the time when my mom kept the family portrait appointment at Olan Mills shortly after her divorce and let us all wear bathing suits and be silly instead of prim and proper. Only yours is even funnier. You were SO RIGHT to send that!

    mothergoosemouse February 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I wish I’d sent a photo like that instead of letting my kid be the only one without a family photo on her cubby.

    GoMommy February 20, 2008 at 3:35 pm


    I love it! I’m sure her teachers got a good laugh!

    Angela February 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    OMG, you have a beautiful family.

    mamatulip February 20, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Promise me you sent that picture in. Okay?

    Liz February 20, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    thanks for making me snarf my sprite.

    what a beautiful family. please tell me you got called in for a parent-teacher conference?

    Miss Britt February 20, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    We have absolutely no family pictures of the four of us in non digital format. None.

    Christina February 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    We have no family picture other than one from when Cordy was a year old. And like you, I’m usually the one taking the picture, so you barely know I exist in the photographic record.

    Anonymous February 20, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    When I arrived at the daycare last month my 4 year old grabbed me by the hand & dragged me over to the family picture wall, looked at me with the I’m-so-neglected-I’ll-never-get-in-to-Harvard-now eyes & asked if I could please give him a picture for the wall because he was the only kid in the room without a picture on the wall.

    You don’t know guilt….

    Her Bad Mother February 20, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    The *reminders* are last minute, but the shame of it is, we have a little one-page calendar that is sent home with her every month, that outlines their activities for each day of that month, and includes info like ‘BRING FAMILY PHOTO.’ But do you think that I know where that calendar is? And do you think that even if I did know, that I would consult it regularly?

    Have no life skills. Am not fit to parent.

    ewe are here February 20, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Nooooooo! hahahahahahaha

    And why do 2 year olds need valentines? They’re 2! They won’t miss them!

    Jezer February 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Dude, that photo rawks.

    When they asked for Alex to bring a family photo, I had to send two–one of him with the Mr. and one of him with me.

    And THIRTY-SIX kids? Good Lord that’s a lot of classmates!

    Roz February 20, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Damn woman, you know what to do with a mullet. Waiting for the post comparing “WB” to Bon Jovi.

    Chicky Chicky Baby February 20, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    I will never EVER get tired of seeing that photo. Mullets rawk.

    jason February 20, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month…
    check it out ..

    Lori at Spinning Yellow February 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Ditto what Julie P. said. The first go-round finds you feeling like a failure. By kid number two, you are ready for this crap, but also just do the minimum, b/c who really cares? No one but the perfect/competi-mommy who is more than happy to have the best cupcakes, valentines, photos, etc.

    b*babbler February 20, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Oh, I’m going to definitely have to remember this.

    And Peanut? Definitely motherless if you go by the photo album.

    Dana J. Tuszke February 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Oh…Catherine…THANK YOU for making me laugh heartily at this. I so need it.

    I don’t think it was wrong at all. They didn’t say who’s family you had to send. :) It’s a Family Portrait, right? It counts!

    Dr. Homic February 20, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Oh that was great! I too made valentine’s day cards, my son was so bored, he kept asking me can i go play now???? No, I said, draw a picture and put heart stickers on this card!!

    a. beaverhausen February 20, 2008 at 11:25 pm


    Lady M February 21, 2008 at 2:11 am

    I also have to ask point-blank to get a pic of Q and me, so if it weren’t for the Christmas card, there would be no evidence that we’re all related. Photoshop comes to mind though.

    Love that hair.

    Avalon February 21, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Oh no.

    Did the school allow her back?

    SUEB0B February 21, 2008 at 9:59 am

    You are the best.

    As a non-mother, I have to wonder…do 2 year olds NEED Valentines? Why??? Why do they have to wear red and bring fambly photos? It all seems nutso to me, like entertainment for the teachers and that the children would not care if they didn’t make a deal about it.

    wright February 21, 2008 at 10:33 am

    *snort* *cough* Uh, that’s such a lovely picture! You have a beautiful family!!! :-)

    LD February 21, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I’m not sure if it was right, but anyone who can’t see the humor in it isn’t worth worrying about. Thanks for starting my day off with a good laugh!

    Baby in the City February 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    At least you got a heads up for Valentine’s Day. When I went to pick up The Boy on V-day, I was told, with a sideways glance and a consoling ‘you failed’ smirk, that he couldn’t take home his little goody bag yet cause, you know, the valentines and treats were still rolling in from all the other ‘good’ parents, who were on it enough to bring Hershey’s kisses and valentines for everyone. Great. Cause we all like to not only let our own children down, but disappoint all their friends too.
    Sometimes I hate daycare.

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