Enough with the Theme Days: An Impassioned Plea from an Overwhelmed Mom

We’re halfway through the school year, which is my first year with both kids in school full-time. I’m lucky that they both love school, from the teachers to the classmates to the cafeteria. It’s been a great year for all of us. However, having to dress both kids for school every day has made me realize just how many theme days there are during the year.

Even I will admit that Book Character Day is pretty cute.

It all began during Red Ribbon Week. You may have seen this hilarious rant about it. Red Ribbon Week somehow correlates wearing ridiculous outfits with not doing drugs, all with varying but still equally silly slogans: “Wear Camoflauge; Drugs Can’t Find You!” “Wear Neon: My Future is Too Bright for Drugs!” By Thursday of this week, when I was scrounging through old T-shirts trying to find two appropriate for “Dress Like Your Favorite Vacation Destination Day,” I began to become annoyed with the ridiculousness of the week. (I ended up slapping some old Hawaiian leis on the kids since I figured my “I got wasted in the Florida Keys, Spring Break 2003” shirt might border on inappropriate.) If we really want to devote a week to keeping kids off drugs, can’t we plaster the hallways with those “Faces of Meth” ads you see on TV? Or maybe have a lifelong smoker come talk to them through his stoma? Or might I suggest “Parade of Prison Inmates from Narcotics Charges Day”?

By December, we had recovered from Red Ribbon Week, only to find an entire WEEK of winter theme dress up days. It began on Monday, with Holiday Headgear Day—or, as I like to call it, “Share Your Head Lice With Your Friends Day.” Tuesday was “Holiday Sock Day,” which, by the way, may as well be called “Make Your Mom Search Every Wal-Mart in the City for Socks That Don’t Fit You Day.” By Wednesday, “Snowy Day Clothes” (aka: “Your Teacher Will Have Mittens and Scarves That You Don’t Need Because Texas All Over Her Classroom Day”), I was scrounging for outfits for each day while also buying and wrapping presents, making cookies, and generally being festive. The week culminated with “Holiday Pajama Day,” a day where the kids wore pajamas all day while stuffing their faces with as many sweets as possible while playing holiday games and running around, rubbing their lice-y heads together (yeah, we had lice twice during the holidays). 

Last year we had holiday pajama/Grinch hair day. That wasn’t complicated at all.

We are nearing the 100th day of school, which means that I’m trying to figure out how to dress my second-grader and Kindergartner like 100-year-old ladies. In the minds of elementary schoolers, 100-year-olds are cute and have baby-powdered white hair and glasses, but I have 100-year-old grandparents, and they sleep and watch TV all day (although “Sleep and Watch TV All Day” is a day I would fully support). Can the kids maybe wear whatever they wore to bed the night before and also be extra grumpy? The 100th day (February 1st for NISD) is on the first Wednesday of the month, which means that it takes the place of “Plaid Day” in February, but falls the week before “Wear Purple for Military Students Day” and two weeks before “College T-shirt Day”—otherwise known as days I will completely forget about until I drop my kids off at school and they give me dirty looks.

100 year old Molly,wearing whatever robe and sunglasses she could find.

Look, I was a teacher before I was a mom. I get that dress-up days are fun for the kids and break up a monotonous week. I get that raising awareness about various causes is en vogue right now, and it’s good for kids to be socially aware. I’m just saying that perhaps we can scale down the grandeur and frequency of these theme days. Must we wear our college shirts every month? We get that college is great. Yay, college! We can totally support college without a monthly day reminding us about it. And do we need to spend a week hyping ourselves up for winter break? We are all hyped up for winter break. It is all we’ve talked about since school started. And of course we want our kids to say no to drugs! No one wants that more than us parents. But I don’t think my kids will look back in their college years and say, “No, thanks. I don’t want a toke of that joint, because when I was seven I dressed like my favorite vacation destination.”

I only have TWO kids in school. Some of you have many more, like four or five. To you I salute you and say, “Godspeed, and good luck finding four different tie-dyed shirts for Tie-dye Day.”

In the meantime, I’m just a mom, standing in front of a calendar, begging it not to be a theme day.

Kristin moved to San Antonio from Baltimore in 2006. Although she had a brief 2 year stay in Fort Worth, the margaritas, breakfast tacos and the kind souls of our residents drew her back for good. She's a third grade teacher and group fitness instructor, and single mom to Molly (2009), Sadie (2011), Daisy (dog) and Charlie (cat). When she has free time, she's either training for a half marathon or on a patio somewhere with a Titos and soda. Favorite Restaurant: Sustenio Favorite Landmark: The Pearl Brewery Favorite San Antonio Tradition: The Elf Movie parties at Alamo Drafthouse


  1. My son’s elem school would make the kids pay $1 to wear hats one day and sports team stuff another day and so on….I get it, help raise money an easy way, but seriously my kid is not paying you to wear a shirt he can wear any other day of the week for free…the hat one I get because they are not allowed to wear them any other time, but fave sports team? I have a boy who plays sports and whose Dad is a huge sports fan (name a sport we probably have gear for a team for, in some case both college and pro!) so my kids wears team stuff more often than not! It sounds like since my son started homeschooling in 5th grade that the themed dress up days might have gotten a bit over the top….I had a giggle at a dear friend’s expense last week as she struggled to cut out and iron on 100 butterflies to a t-shirt for her kinder daughter…seriously, why is this causing parents so much work? Wearing 100 something? what happened to the simple days when you brought in 100 pennies, marbles, etc etc etc….wearing 100 of anything sounds time consuming and possibly expensive (my friend’s original idea, had she done it, would have cost $60 to do, hence her change in plan!)!! I am all for making school fun, especially in the early years cause these days it gets all serious starting as early as 6/7th grade and kids worrying about honors classes and college application projects/essays and so on! But please find another way to do than making parents chase all over town to find stuff for dress up days! Especially if you live in a state where the weather changes almost daily and finding rain boots or winter gear after Christmas is next to impossible unless you want to pay for the “good stuff” at Bass Pro! LOL!

  2. Awesome article! My three kids are all grown now, but when they were in school, they went to a catholic school which in terms of clothing was awesome because the had to wear a uniform most days. BUT on theme days which they totally looked forward to, I stressed. I didn’t have that kind of stuff laying around the house. With the kids having to wear uniforms on most days, I didn’t have to worry about too much in the way of “regular” clothes so I hated those days!

    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who stressed about it!

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