I got yer spirit week right here

This time last year, I was trying and completely failing to make a breathable tortoise beak out of duct tape. 

My daughter wanted to dress up as a tortoise for the 100th day of school, because . . . I don’t know, tortoises sometimes live to be 100 years old, and it made sense to her. I was just so thrilled the kids were actually back in school in person, I was willing go along with any stupid project. 

My other child decided nothing would do but to wear a shirt to which someone (“someone”) had sewn 100 little bells, so I did that, too. (Yes, I packed an extra shirt on the off-chance that one of the long-suffering adults in her classroom somehow grows weary of the sound of 100 bells on  a child who could not sit still if it meant the difference between life and death.) 

If you’re thinking to yourself that the 100th day of school does not sound like a real holiday, you are so right. Some say it originated to encourage and celebrate teachers and students who have made it about halfway through the school year. Some say it’s just a great chance to sneak in some fun math lessons. Still others say that some school districts decided they would allot per-student funding based on how many kids were present on one particular day, and they chose day 100, so the school decided to plump up their budgets by luring in as many of the little scamps as possible with the promise of parties and fun; and that’s already sketchy enough, but then then Pinterest got wind of it, and now the day has taken on a horrible life of its own, completely unmoored from even its shaky origins.

It’s sort of like how Christmas has become entirely secularized and is now all about commercialism, except that 100 Day started out being about money, and now it’s just about making parents stay up until midnight sewing bells on a shirt, and whimpering, “Tell me this looks like a turtle shell.” 

Either way, now that I’ve gotten the requisite snarking out of the way, I have a terrible confession to make: I love stuff like this. I love special days, and I love spirit week.

I live to twist fruit rolls into sticky little rosettes and jam them on top of dozens of mini cupcakes for Valentine’s Day parties. I adore hot glueing bits of cardboard to other bits of cardboard to make elaborate armor for a kid who has decided she must be a glow-in-the-dark ostrich pirate for Halloween.  I’m totally in my element bashing hard candies with a hammer to make stained glass Christmas cookies for the bake sale. I don’t know if it’s because I can remember so clearly how thrilling it was to be a kid and to show up to school on A Day That Was Special, or if it’s just that my own adult life is just so dull that hot glue is enough to spice it up, but I truly enjoy making these dumb little crafts and projects and costumes.

I’m sorry. I know people like me are making life harder for people like you. I am what I am. 

That being said, even crafty people like me have our down days. There are weeks when I open my calendar and my spirit groans to discover that it’s spirit week. There are plenty of mornings when crazy hair day isn’t something to plan with giggles and anticipation; it’s simply completely unavoidable, and I’m less concerned about sharing it to Pinterest and more concerned that someone will share it with child protective services. And I know I’m not alone.

So for the parents who have no natural creative impulse, or who are just too dang busy to consider dealing with yet another special thing in the morning, I’m presenting this list of alternative, more humane special activities that most parents can manage, and I hope their schools will consider them:

Favorite Shirt Day Child must show up wearing his favorite shirt. Bonus points if his mother has no idea where this shirt came from, and it features a trashy, ghastly, tasteless design that makes her wither up inside like a little bug on a very hot day, but she lets him wear it all the time because it is the delight of his heart, and she loves him even more than she loves her reputation. Bonus points if it has jelly on it because he also wore it yesterday, because  . . . it’s his favorite shirt. 

Twin Day Dress up exactly the same as someone else in the world, probably. I mean, there are a lot of people in the world. Chances are pretty high someone else is wearing that same outfit. See? Twins. Fun. For academic enrichment, look up the word “doppelgänger.” Spend the day staring out the window in case he happens to walk by. 

Favorite Character Day Dress up as your favorite potential character, assuming somebody someday writes a book about a kid whose parents are TRYING, okay? Everybody has PANTS ON, okay? It’s not like we just dropped you off in a CORN FIELD or something. 

Thing Day Child must show up with a thing. Just any thing, as long as it’s something the child made completely on his own, using materials found on the floor of the car or bus, or on the ground outside the school door. Must be so weird and wretched that it’s manifestly clear that it was made without help or intervention from an adult. Kid loses points if an adult even has to know about it. Or, if the kid forgets to make a thing, it can be an invisible thing. Or it can be a stick or something. It’s fine. It’s whatever. Call it “child-led” if that helps you sleep at night. 

Name Day At some point during Spirit Week, when you pick your child up, you will be asked to state your child’s name. If you can’t immediately come up with it, you will be given a hint. If that doesn’t work, you will be given a cocktail and some warm socks and sent to bed. 

And there it is. Hey, we’re all 100 days closer to the grave, anyway. Some of us will be there with bells on.

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7 thoughts on “I got yer spirit week right here”

  1. 100% yes on how Crazy Hair Day feels sometimes. Half the time, I can’t make my own hair look decent, much less the hair of anyone who can’t stand still for fifteen stinking seconds. (Not sure if I live under a rock or what, but I had honestly never even *heard,* before that piece of yours that mentioned parenting standards you now can’t believe you held, about the trick of saving a lock of hair out of a kid’s ponytail to braid and wind around the hair tie so it won’t show.) Anywho, yes: I do like themed days in theory, though in practice I do a lot of embracing underachievement when it comes to celebrating them (plus, my kids are still pretty young and have fairly low standards for these things). Your suggestions, I could manage.

  2. My FAVORITE things when my kids were in school were events like this! I love to bake, I sew about as well as your average ungulate but I will try anything, and I love craft stores. I was a practicing lawyer during all the time they were in school, so being the Cupcake Mom was also a way of demonstrating that having a demanding career did not make me a bad mother. (Also, in case anyone needs to know, canned icing, food coloring, and Peeps Holiday Candies make really popular and lovely cupcakes for any and all celebrations. Peeps + jellybeans make IDEAL cupcake decorations for Easter.)

  3. I don’t know who needs to know this, but Hobby Lobby has surprisingly inexpensive air dry foam clay in their “cosplay” aisle that’s a game changer when it comes to making details. I paired it with a toilet paper tube and paint to make a very serviceable, and surprisingly light and sturdy, Miss Piggy snout for Halloween this past year.

  4. Last week was Catholic Schools Week and if your kids attend that means there’s some obscure thing needed every single day. Mercifully, my youngest has graduated the parish school, but I can seriously remember being in the hospital during Catholic Schools Week and Amazon Priming weird things while in labor with him.

    When my siblings and I were young, we were always too poor and my mother too neat (“What do you need that cardboard for???”) to be able to make things on the fly and so we kids were forced to pretend to be above whatever organized fun was going on. But not my kids. My kids were not only going to participate in whatever silliness was going on at the school, they were going to shine, dammit. I am not even a little crafty, but in the over 20 years we had kids in the parish school, we never once missed a single crazy hat day or dress like your favorite book character day. The evidence remains in my basement, where there are several huge Rubbermaids full of things like Where’s Waldo and Camp Halfblood shirts as well as cheeseheads, coon skin caps, and Smitty WerbenJagerManJensen hats. And lots and lots of beards, wigs, capes, mustaches, and glasses. Now every October, my adult kids come with their friends to look though “Mom’s bins” in search of Halloween costumes.

    No doubt, my kids will have their own childhood trauma to overcome when they’re raising their kids, but so help me God it won’t be that their mother was too good for their stupid, annoying spirit days.

    p.s. I think the schools do these things to help the teachers and kids get over the winter doldrums. Or at least, that’s why these things have caught on. Next up, pi day!

  5. Simcha, I LOVED this. Thanks for writing – it reminded me of my son who fell in love with his Boy Scout shirt and wanted to wear it on every single ‘special day’ but that meant I had to take the badges on an off and re sew them hundreds of times over his school years.

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