Margo Sullivan’s family portrait.

I don’t love having my picture taken. Aging with grace and humility requires some effort but it also calls for taking the win when it presents itself.

One category where I feel I’ve made great strides from a decade ago has been the elimination of cargo shorts from my wardrobe. We have so many adorable pictures of our kids from that time frame, but if I happen to be in the shot too, the cuteness comes with a side of cargo clown knickers. I’m contemplating a broad-scale photoshop project.

Granted, my primary job at that stage of parenthood was Holder of Stuff. If we walked to the park, we might bring a snack and sippy cup, a ball, a doll, sunscreen, a few Band-Aids, and – looky here – giant pockets! Function trumped form at every turn. Fashion was a concern for the childless bachelors. I’d even snicker at them: Oh, that guy with his well-tailored pants thinks he’s so sharp.

Nowadays, my appearance is best reflected in the running commentary my kids generously offer me. I don’t know if it helps any since my natural inclination is to respond by leaning in further to whatever flaw they identify. It could be something like ‘Your socks are ugly,’ which indicates that I should dig through my drawer for even uglier socks. Or ‘You wear the same thing every day,’ which will prompt me to order two more pairs of the exact same jeans.

It’s not just my attire though. They have plenty of constructive criticism about my physical attributes, too. Elliott offers up little nuggets like “you should lift weights more often” or “you should grow a beard.” It’s serendipitous because for years my sole focus was keeping two small humans alive and perhaps understandably, I was somewhat oblivious to my appearance. But now, thanks to those same humans, I know exactly what my shortcomings are.

Margo took to the whiteboard to draw a family portrait. Which is sweet and perhaps even preferable to having my picture taken, but I had a few questions. Like, why is my torso so long? Why the dopey smile? Why do my eyes look like they are sliding off the side of my face? Because, according to Margo, “that is exactly what you look like, Dad.” Anyway, now I know this, too, which is great because self-awareness is everything, right?

Kristen needs to use ‘Kristin’ on legal documents due to a birth certificate screw-up. It’s annoying and can cause some confusion on the rare occasions it matters. Being all about truth, the whiteboard family portrait apparently also warrants legal names only. However, Kristen is not that short. Margo tends to exaggerate their height differential ever since she shot past her. And I’d swear Kristen has a hipper hairstyle, but here it reads like she went to Supercuts and requested the Boy’s Regular. Likewise, her khakis(?) appear to be the Boy’s Regular cut. With a devious child’s expression, this ‘Kristin’ is an enigma.

Margo did capture the essence of Elliott. Except he’s the same height as me now and the stick figure arms aren’t fair since he’s getting a little muscly from those weights he keeps telling me about. Of course, Margo drew herself quite chic and her hair is on point. The thickness, the curls and the length are all astounding. Admittedly, the drawing is pretty accurate in that regard. Her thorough maintenance routine keeps the curls at maximum glory. If I had that kind of time…well, who am I kidding?

My message to young parents is when it comes to your appearance, ignorance is indeed bliss. Go on with your utility wear and your ketchup-stained shirts. Do it while you can because not only is a reckoning coming, but it’s coming from inside your own house. Also, I don’t wear cargo shorts anymore and if I’ve conveyed nothing else, I just really needed that point to be crystal clear.

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny.