The other day I was cleaning under my daughter's bed: a minefield of ripped out coloring book pages, lost Beanie Boos, SO MANY bobby pins from ballet buns, and a notebook covered in kitty stickers that I had given her months ago. It wasn't a diary, necessarily, so I thought it would be okay to flip through it. Just to see.
Inside she had written a sort of diary-esque entry, just about getting the notebook (big news in 8 year old world apparently). She wrote "My mom got me this notebook because she is the best mom ever". And just like that I realized, hers is the only opinion that matters.
To ourselves, we only see our shortcomings. The things we forgot to do, the times we were late, the times we lost our temper. The times we screwed up. We beat ourselves up and then hold ourselves up for comparison to other people that we probably don't even really know. I have said it to myself and I know many of you have said it as well, "I feel like I'm failing at this."
Let's get one thing clear: we live in a time where mothering has become a competitive sport. Parenting that would've been deemed "good" or even "above average" back when we were kids has somehow become "slacker" parenting nowadays. Case in point? Put "cupcakes" into the search bar of Pinterest and these little babies will pop up...
Like HELLO!! If 8 year old me had seen these they would have BLOWN MY MIND. We did not have unicorn cupcakes when I was a kid. And the thing is, we DID have cupcakes when I was a kid, even in school that is. But they were always, always, the regular variety. Chocolate or vanilla, maybe some sprinkles. That's it. And they were awesome. There was always the one kid that would put the entire cupcake in their mouth in one bite, and always the ones who would insist taking the top off and turning it over so it was a frosting sandwich was the best way to eat it. Lots of opinions on cupcakes back then.
But now I'm supposed to make these? Like, in my house? With my own hands? Uh uh. Not happening. I mean, I'd LOVE to be that talented, but I'm not. And I probably won't find the time to make these until my kids are in college. And by then there will probably be unicorn holograms you're supposed to create for your cupcakes to add another whole level to it all and I'll be telling my kids "Back when you were young all we were expected to do was make organic unicorn cupcakes with little candy horns!".
It's possible, just possible, that we go that extra unnecessary Pinterest mile because we feel like we should be doing it. We do it for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better about how we are doing. It's also possible you're super into baking or decorating or sewing or WHATEVER so no mean comments please.
Am I the only one who has put a ton of time into a kid project only to find yourself nearly FORCING them to enjoy it because of how much time you spent on it? Like "You're gonna LIKE this cape I made for your birthday or we can just call the whole thing off!" Way to suck the fun out of it, right? I remember for my oldest's fifth birthday party I handmade superhero capes for him and all his little guests, only to find out the next morning after I burned the crap out of my hands hot glue gunning the hell out of them at the last minute (naturally) that they were all wrong. AWESOME. By the way the capes were totally my idea too.
The thing is, sometimes that voice that tells us we need to do this stuff to make things special is all we hear. We forget about our little cheerleaders. The ones for whom we are the stars in the sky and the sun that shines on them. And we forget how little they actually need as far as unicorn cupcakes and capes go. And to be honest, kids really aren't that picky (talking in GENERAL terms here, not as far as "I won't eat food that is touching other food" type of pickiness because yeah. Toddlers.) Give a kid a cake for his birthday, they are happy. Be there for his birthday, they are happy. Tell them you love them and be around and supportive, and they're happy. They really, truly, don't care if your bookshelf is color coordinated (ed note: no one actually cares) or if you have a system for doing laundry or what your laundry room even LOOKS like (no child cares about the laundry room signs you got on Zulily, only you care).
If you want to go nuts and make the most magical birthday ever, go for it and more power to ya! But don't expect kids to understand or even truly be capable of appreciating the fact that it took you seven hours to create the cake for it, because chances are a regular, run of the mill cake would also be just as good in their eyes. Because it's not the cake, it's the YOU. Case in point: the cake I make for all of my kids. It's a box mix, it's store bought frosting, and those are store bought sprinkles that I use on top to make the letter of their name. All in all it takes me probably like an hour (or less if you don't count the time it takes to bake the cakes and let them cool). They love their cakes because it's our tradition, they don't care that the mix came from the grocery store or that I didn't create my own buttercream frosting. And it tastes pretty amazing, let me tell you.
So, whether you're the best mom ever for making them organic unicorn hologram cupcakes or you're the best mom ever for getting them a $2 notebook you know they'll like, or you're the best mom ever for just giving them a hug when they need it, the thing is, you are their best mom ever. You are their best mom ever for being there and thinking of them. Don't lose sight of who is the most important. Don't let your own judgment of yourself get in the way. And if you DO make those cupcakes for your party, please invite me so I can have one. xoxo
ps that mug? It's from Target. And yes, I have one.