Are Today's School Spirit Days Too Much? The Struggle is Real for Parents

From "favorite storybook character" to "crazy hair," this parent is so over school spirit days. If you feel like these themes are an affront to your sanity, you'll relate to some major fail moments.

School Spirit List

For many of us parents, the countdown to the last day of school is on, and so too is the madness of end-of-year celebrations—and obligations. It's in this latter category that I would place school spirit days.

One school is taking end-of-the-year school spirit days to a whole new level—with "ABC Countdown to Summer." There is literally a spirit day for every letter of the alphabet that runs from May 12 through the end of school on June 20. That's 26 spirit days in total—I mean, c'mon!

With five kids, every day is a scramble, with lunches being made ("Mom, we don't have any more sandwich bags!"), water bottles being filled (and spilled), homework being forgotten, outfits getting cereal milk down the front of them mere seconds before we leave the house, and just chaos in general.

I'm guessing it was a group of far more organized parents and teachers who got together to come up with one more fun, little element to add to the mix: How about if one of the last Mondays of the school year is "beach day" for the Pre-K set, and "read under your desk day" for fourth graders?

Could I have been the only frenzied mom to remember my son needed a beach towel and sunglasses, and my daughter was supposed to bring a blanket, a flashlight, and a favorite book after everyone was already in the car? I don't think so.

Sure, we ended up pulling off today's theme, but I'm sure a mom fail is inevitable given the full schedule of spirit days leading up to the last week. Next up is luau day, because every kid has a Hawaiian shirt in their wardrobe, right? Then there's this mom's most dreaded spirit day: crazy hair day.

Spirit Day Parent Stress

Instead of being fun, spirit days just end up feeling like added pressure, especially since some parents in my community are seemingly trying to outdo one another with their commitment to the themes. Like on Dr. Seuss Day this year, when I swear some parents must have spent weeks crafting, sewing, and scheming to come up with the best "Thing 1 and Thing 2" costumes in the history of the world. I mean, these kids were ready to step onto a movie set after reviewing their math facts for the morning.

And on the 100th day of school? Forget it. Kids showed up at school with the most over-the-top old people's outfits, makeup, and hair that I couldn't tell if one boy was a third-grader or his grandpa. Seriously.

These are the parents who zap the fun right out of spirit days. Because if you're like me, and you phone it in with a ponytail with two scrunchies on crazy hair day, your kid comes home feeling dejected after sitting next to a girl at lunch whose hair was dyed blue, with a style that incorporated a wire clothes hanger to make her pony stand up five feet in the air.

Even if you think you've nailed a particular spirit day, you're wrong. Supermom's spirit day game is going to put your best efforts to shame.

Melissa Willets, Writer

Even if you think you've nailed a particular spirit day, you're wrong. Supermom's spirit day game is going to put your best efforts to shame.

— Melissa Willets, Writer

The worst is when you forget that it's water day, and your kid is the only one not wearing a rash guard and water shoes, and who didn't bring a towel or change of clothes. They come home soaked and miserable, and you feel like the worst parent since last Thursday—when you confused tie-dye day with sports team day.

I really have to wonder if school spirit days were invented purely to make me feel like a crappy parent. Not all of us are crafty or even creative. I see "dress like your favorite storybook character" as an affront, not as a fun challenge. My kid told me he wanted to be the pigeon from the Mo Willems books. Somehow no one got it when I had him wear a blue shirt—go figure. To the parent who found the time to go out and buy giant, googly eyeballs and hot glue them onto a blue hoodie, and add a yellow visor to be the pigeon's beak: Congratulations! You won.

Spirit Day Kid Stress

Some of the themes are even upsetting to my kids, like twin day. When my daughter's "twin" ditched her for someone else whose mom bought them matching rompers at Old Navy, the afternoon was filled with tears, not excitement.

When I didn't have her leopard print leggings clean for animal day, who was the jerk? Here's a hint: It wasn't the mom who came up with the school spirit days calendar. Meanwhile, I still feel bad about the time I only managed to crimp half of my middle schooler's hair for '80s day. But, I'm sure her classmates got the idea, right?

The only spirit day I don't mind is pajama day. In fact, this could be every day, and I'd be happy. But beyond that, what I want to offer is that not everyone loves spirit days. Some of us are overwhelmed enough without having to plan for "dress like your teacher day," "dress like medieval lords and ladies day," or "dress like your favorite sitcom star day." These themes can also get expensive if you don't have the elements at home to pull off a passable Rachel from Friends.

So, note to whoever is planning next year's school spirit days: Please consider a new idea. Let's try a "this is a clean, dry outfit I managed to put on my kid in time for the bus to come" theme. It'll be a big hit with parents everywhere.

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