Mark picked Cole up from school yesterday and there was a sticker on his backpack. It said, "Ask me about PHOTO DAY tomorrow!"
I shook my head in disbelief when Mark told me. I would have totally forgotten! So I went up to Cole's room immediately and picked out some smart-looking khakis and a matching button-up plaid beige and white collar shirt. Perfect! Anticipating three-year-old temperments, I even picked a second blue corduroy button up shirt as a back-up. It's always good to offer a kid a choice between two things that are both acceptable. It's win-win. Oh how clever I am, I thought to myself.
This morning, when I stripped Cole down to dress him, as I do every morning, he took one look at the plaid shirt in my hand and blew a gasket. He began to thrash and cry buck in protest.
So, I offered the blue shirt. He cried harder.
I called his bluff and left the room and went downstairs to tend to his sister. I called, "When you're ready, the shirts will be here."
He stood at the top of the stairs with tears dripping down onto his bare chest.
Finally, I went and found two polo-style shirts with stripes and offered those options. He was so worked up by now he was having none of it. On any other day, he would have put these shirts on happily. But on picture day, only thing would do...
"I WANT MY DINOSAUR SHIRT!!!" he screamed.
"I want my dinosaur shirt! The one that goes on like a sweater," he shreiked.
I remembered the one. It was a gift a month ago. And from the moment Cole laid eyes on it, there was no turning back. Picture a Hawaiian shirt, with the short-sleeves, buttons up the front and leafy motif. Now picture more neutral tones, beiges, browns and greens and speckle the shirt with every kind of dinosaur you can think of. Big ones. Dinosaurs as bag as a three year old's hand. As big as a three year old's imagination. And burrowing into his heart. It was instantly Cole's favourite and he'd wear it every day if he could. The shirt said I am three and I LOVE dinosaurs. The shirt said Someone knows little boys and loved me enough to buy this for me. But what it did not say was This is a Photo Day shirt. It didn't say classic. It didn't say timeless.
So I did what any mother in a desperate situation has done (although she may not admit it). I began to lie.
"Cole, that shirt's in the wash. It's dirty."
"No it's not!"
"No it's not! I saw it last night. I showed you. It's in my room."
I could see it in my mind's eyes, crumpled on the floor of his bedroom.
"It got dirty after that," I persisted.
"How?" he frowned at me dubiously, tucking his chin to his chest and looking up through his lashes.
"I got it dirty...." I began.
His frown deepened.
"I put it on..." I said to my three year old "and then I spilled yogurt on it."
"You put it on!?" he asked incredulously (and rightly so).
"And then I spilled yogurt on it. It's in the wash."
"Why you put it on, Mommy!" he cried in anguish.
"It'll be clean by tonight. When you get home from school!"
His pout expressed his deep displeasure, but he had stopped crying. Obviously, he realized the futility of a situation. 'Cause you can't wear a shirt with yogurt on it to school on picture day.
"Mommy," he frowned at me, "Mommy, don't put on my dinosaur shirt again."