I don’t know what it is about the last two decades in American parenthood but someone needs to raise the white flag and it might as well be me. Part of the problem might be the prominence of social media or the persistent need to document every single thing a child does but man it’s getting’ a little cray-cray up in here. I am opting out, my friends. Please won’t you join me?
Sometimes while reading parenting magazines or blogs I wonder, “Why does every walk need to be an adventure, every outfit magazine-worthy and why can’t graham crackers just be graham crackers instead of miniature calculators with mini M&Ms for buttons? And you know what–I don’t actually want to transform a taco into a dinosaur for my child’s dinner. I just want them to Eat. The. Taco.
I have learned that we each have our own gifts and ways that we show love to our children. I have a dear friend who makes adorable and creative lunches that she truly enjoys making and her children equally love to be surprised when they open their lunch boxes and find ghost-shaped sandwiches. Personally, I think I deserve a standing ovation when I cut a sandwich into triangles instead of the commonplace rectangles.
Decorating, in general, is not how I show love: reindeer birthday cupcakes look like sad puppies and a princess castle under my influence looks like an eighteen month-old frosted and then sat on it.
I do however, love to bake muffins and breads, read books with a variety of accents, take cross-country road trips and generally make up silly stories. That’s how I show love. Each of us gets to choose and decide how we do it and comparing and counter-measuring ourselves to others is pointless and stressful. So stop.
Secondly, I read a blog recently about a mom who said she was sick and tired of feeling pressured to make her children’s life magical and I wanted to shout out an earnest “A-to-the-men!” I truly don’t remember this happening back in my day. Cupcakes were just cupcakes. Life was a little more chill without Pinterest.
I’ve decided that my aim is not to make life magical for my children, but meaningful. The definition of magical is to be removed from everyday life, also known as fantasy.
I can’t think of one person with a magical life, can you? You don’t have to look far down the street to realize no one’s life fits that description for long. And as a slight aside, so often in life we view hard times as “bad” as in “Why do bad things have to happen to good people?” I worry that our vocabulary is much too inadequate in describing these times—uncomfortable, painful, heart-wrenching, unexpected and shocking all qualify—but bad?—I’m not so convinced. Because these valleys are where the real growth and testing are and where God does his best work.
If anything, I want my children to know that life is real—really amazing, really challenging, really fun, really beautiful and really risky—not at all like a fairy tale, but better.
Here’s the pep talk I attempt to give my children through my words and actions: “You want to do something “magical”? Serve someone else by doing something incredibly kind. Do something good and not the kind of good that gains likes on social media, gets published in the newspaper or has you placed on the benefactor wall for your local non-profit. No, I mean the kind of good that only you and God knows—the old-fashioned kind that when you lie your head down at night, you know that you tried to make your little corner of the world a better place.”
My hope is that we can each as mothers, mature and realize that our best is enough—that we are enough and no craft, no Facebook or Instagram post makes us more of a mother than we are. I hope we all realize that recognition is fleeting and unworthy of our attention. I hope we can each be grounded in the knowledge that we are each works in progress and God isn’t finished with any of us yet. I hope we can each relish our distinctive qualities and gifts that make us unique while also appreciating other’s talents and discerning that their goodness and amazingness doesn’t diminish our own.
There is such power and comfort in knowing we are all trying and failing and building together. Build dinosaur tacos if you like, make contact paper collages from your nature walk and buy bows larger than your child’s head if that’s how you show love—I won’t mock you. But please join me in opting out of the ranking and forced attention-seeking that happens far too often in this most important work we all share in. Let us all be a little kinder in making each other’s days a little better.
Can I get an A-to-the-men?