It was a Thursday afternoon, the week that our sweet Lilah Rae started preschool. At just 2 years old, she was one of the youngest in her class, barely making the cutoff to start preschool by 7 days. Thursday was her second day of school (since she only goes two days a week) and she was sent home with a packet of information. I flipped through the multicolored stack of papers (which were complete with way too much clip art, of course). Snack Info: no peanuts, no sugar, no juice, must be healthy- wow… what do they feed the children? Next. Safety Info: Closed toed shoes should be worn at all times? Whoopsies. Next. Picture day- PICTURE DAY?!
I immediately grabbed my phone, opened my calendar app, found Thursday, September 28th and typed in (attempting to use the most “no big deal” words I could): “Lilah’s school pics”. My goal for the next 3 weeks was set: to prepare Lilah for the biggest moment of her life thus far – nailing her first picture day.
A few days later I was chatting with one of my friends who also has a daughter at Lilah’s school and she said, “You’re probably not going order school pictures because you guys can just take your own, right?” I laughed and said something like, “Yeah we will see!” What I should have said/what I was actually thinking was: “False. If the pictures turn out horrendously then I’m definitely going to want proof of how horrible her first school photo was. And, if they turn out amazingly then I’m basically going to wallpaper my house in them.” (I was pretty determined to make the wallpaper scenario happen.)
The morning of picture day came too quickly. I hadn’t prepared her enough… and it was too late. I frantically ran around the house trying to decide what she should wear, looking for the perfect bow for her hair, and trying to remind her that there was a difference between her real smile and the gopher face she had recently started doing anytime we pulled out a camera. I came down the stairs with 6 hair bands in my teeth, a brush in one hand, and a spray bottle in the other. When he saw me all frazzled and crazy-eyed, Jacob decided enough was enough.
“Stop right there. Put the spray bottle down and just do her hair like you normally do. Remember what happened on the first day of school?”
That was exactly the reminder I needed to snap me out of it. I had attempted to do something “special” with her hair on her first day and ended up using way too much detangling spray. You couldn’t tell if her hair was perpetually wet or if she just had the grease level of a teenage boy. I slowly put the spray bottle down. He continued, “I’ll handle this.” He grabbed an Elmo toy camera out of the playroom and sat in the rocking chair in the living room. “Welcome, everyone, to PICTURE DAY! My name is Daddy and I’m the photographer.” The girls smiled but I could also tell were confused by the high-pitched voice he was using. “First up, we have Sadie Joy Willis! Sadie, would you come have a seat on the ottoman here?” Motioning for me to help, he said (semi-condescendingly), “Assistant Mommy, if you would… I need some assistance.” Lilah stood by the refrigerator with a huge smile on her face so I played along and helped Sadie sit on the ottoman. “Alright Sadie, on the count of 3, one-two-three!” On 3 Sadie did the cutest 8-tooth smile I’ve ever seen and I instantly wished the Elmo camera was an actual one. He clicked the fake shutter and said, “Great job! And up next we have… Lilah Willis! Lilah, are you here?” Lilah, with an embarrassed smile, walked over to the ottoman and sat down. “Okay Lilah… was that your name?” She nodded with a grin. “Yes. That’s right. Lilah, on the count of 3 I want you to smile, okay? One-two-” He stopped when the gopher smile came across her face. “You know what you can do? If you feel like you want to just laugh, do that! It could look more natural! Okay, let’s try again. One-two-” She immediately pulled her chin back and did the deepest, double-chinned laugh I’ve ever seen/heard. “Three… Well… Okay… That was… great…” he said, trying not to make eye contact with me. He knew exactly what I was thinking- we’re doomed.
19 days later (not that I was counting), I walked Lilah into school and I immediately knew something was up. All of the moms were holding white envelopes and either pointing and laughing hysterically with their friends or shoving them in their purses and making a beeline for their cars. My heart skipped a beat. This. This was the moment of truth. All cool, calm, and collected I nonchalantly walked over to Lilah’s classroom and gave her a kiss goodbye. What? Oh, there are pictures for me to pick up? No big deal. I might not even look at them right now. The mom standing in front of me pulled her envelope out of the file folders and immediately started laughing, “Of course. OF COURSE this is the face he makes.” I nervously laughed. “No seriously, look.” Then I actually laughed. Deadpan serious face in all 3 photos. I got more nervous and made my way to the back of the file folders (cuz we Willis folk are end-of-the-line, back-of-the-file-folder, bottom-of-the-sign-in-sheet people… not that I’m bitter about that). I pulled the envelope out, and to my amazement, THIS. This is what I saw:
You guys. My life is complete.