Before kids I had grand ideas of the type of mother I would be. I’m a deeply creative person! Surely that will spill over into my parenting and I would be the mom sending her kids to school with the most Pinteresting goodies for all of their school holiday shindigs.
Then I became a mom and no ma’am, that is not happening.
It not only takes a creative mother, it takes a Type A mother and that is NOT what I am. I am all about feelings and experiences, not lists and checkboxes.
I’m now the mother that’s barely keeping up with brushing her own teeth without the extra curriculars. I’m great at making sure everyone else has their teeth brushed but I’m going to end up at the dentist with holes in my molars. I’m now the mother that has corn dogs and chicken nuggets on standby at all times and uses the arsenal multiple times a week. I’m now the mother who can’t remember the last time she washed her bra. This is real life, people.
This is the first year my kids are in “school.” It’s actually Mother’s Day Out, but we call it school.
Back in November when the sign up sheet was posted for the kids’ Christmas party their teacher pointed it out to me when I arrived to pick them up.
I looked at the date and it was the same day I was having brain surgery. I was nervous about that, consumed with feeling ill, barely functioning, and prepping for a toddler Christmas party was the last thing on my mind.
“Ummm…that’s the day I’m having surgery” thinking there’s no way I can be there, cookies in hand, to help feed a group of toddlers. My first thought was she pointed it out because I needed to be there and there was no way that was possible. “Can I do something ahead of time?”
“You can do tablecloths!” she pointed out without any judgements. Bless her. But in my newbie mom mind, the mom who signs up to bring the tablecloths sounds like the mom who’s looking for the easy job. But at that point I couldn’t even handle anything more than sending a cheap piece of plastic in my kids’ backpacks.
“I’ll get the brownies at the next one” and wrote my name next to “tablecloths.”
Aaron picked up the Christmas-iest table cloths during a grocery trip and I packed them in their backpacks the week before.
Then I was in the ICU recovering from brain surgery the day of their party and they didn’t even get to go to enjoy those Christmasy tablecloths they provided for their class. My poor kids. I felt so lame.
Then came Valentines Day.
Class is over at 2. You have until 2:10 to pick up your kid. I’m usually sucking up every last second of alone time and silence that I can before I get them at 2. But this day in the middle of January I stroll up to their class at 1:50, ten whole minutes before class is supposed to be over because it had been a good day for self care, and my kids are the last two in the room. How and why these parents pick up their kids earlier than the assigned time, I have NO clue! I noticed the sign up list for their Valentines class party was next to the sign in sheet and all that was left was tablecloths.
Their teacher was standing there watching me during my internal debate. “She’s going to think I’m the lamest person in the world if I sign up for tablecloths again. I need to redeem the last class party.” I felt the pressure to be the Pizza Mom who brings the main dish to the class, to prove that I’m not just a Tablecloth Mom.
The weight of those few moments fell hard and I began comparing myself to other families. Families I know nothing about because, you know, that’s a completely rational behavior. “I still show up early and that’s not good enough to be able to claim brownies. Why are my kids the last ones? Do these parents miss their kids so much that they pick them up early? Am I stone cold for leaving my kids in school until the last possible moment so I can get my full time away from them to breathe a little? Do my kids feel like I’ve abandoned them because all of the other kids are gone first?!”
As I’m standing there, pen in hand, I felt the opposite of Pizza Mom. My kids are the last ones in class and I can barely manage to bake a frozen pizza for my brood of 4, much less a class of ravaging 3 year olds. Feeling unworthy and embarrassed, I sheepishly put my name next to tablecloths because I know myself. I’m not Pizza Mom. “I’ll make sure they’re festive” I stupidly blurt out to their teacher.
I redeemed myself a little by buying valentines cards for their classmates weeks before the party. But the night before their class party I started wondering…
“Are you supposed to send treats along with the valentine cards?”
“Will the other kids’ parents send treats instead of a plain card?”
“These are 3 year olds. They don’t care about a stupid card. They can’t even read! They need food!”
And at 10pm, 11 hours before my kids are supposed to be in class, I tear apart our pantry looking for something edible to attach to twenty damn valentine cards.
For Christmas my mom gave Aaron a bucket of individually wrapped, soft, sugary, dinner mints. I frantically hold them up to Aaron, “Do you think this is safe to give a group of 3 year olds or will they choke on them?”
“Three year olds have teeth, they’re soft, and they melt fast so I think they’ll be okay.”
And there you go. I taped a mint to each valentine card so as to fool the recipient to think this was a well-thought out gift. Because it makes total sense to send a dinner mint with a card that says “You make my heart go ‘vroom-vroom,” right?
Some season I may be the Pizza Mom. When Pizza Mom means showing up and taking really amazing photos. Or reading a group of kids a very animated book.
But there are seasons I just need to embrace being the Tablecloth Mom. I may not send the best valentines with my kids, I may not sign up to bring pizza, and I may pick up my kids the minute class is supposed to be over. I’ll probably even be late sometimes.
I am the Tablecloth Mom.
But to my kids I’m the mom who gets on the floor with them to play. Who helps them invent new games and fun ways to lay their race track to make their Matchbox cars go faster. I’m the mom who puts her acting degree to use by committing to voices and playing characters when I read them books and they find absolute JOY when I do that. I’m the mom who gets her hands dirty in paint with them. I’m the mom who takes photos of them that they love looking at later on remembering those memories. I’m the mom who is intentional about videoing moments and making them into little movies that they enjoy watching. I’m the mom who makes them their own special Valentines gift to give them on the day of and they yell, “Dis is so awesome! Tank you Mommy Daddy!”
And when I see the fruits of my labor in the joy on their faces, that’s when the Tablecloth Mom sounds like the best thing in the world. Right now they don’t care what I sign up for at the class party. And the only class party I should care about involves two people. So I’m going to focus on that.