First, let me say that Rage Against The Minivan is one of my blog haunts. It’s up there with Vodka Mom and Annie’s Eats and Is There Any Mommy Out There? on my list of things I love to read that aren’t dystopian novels or books about animals by JoAnn Early Macken (if you’re the mom of a kindergartner, I’m guessing you know who she is). I feel empowered when I read these women’s incredible words. And, a little humbled. Okay, a lot humbled and maybe a little idiotic to think that I even consider myself a writer.
This is my rebuttal to Kristen’s blog post “Let’s bring the holidays down a notch”. From a certain viewpoint, I loved this piece. Kristen is a master of sarcasm. I love a good dose of sarcasm with my morning Diet Dr. Pepper. My friend Lara and I talked about giving up sarcasm for Lent one year, but we quickly realized that if we did, it would render us mute. Sarcasm is quite often my literary voice. However, the longer I let the words of this piece mull in my brain, the more bothered I became by it. I am by nature a debater and when I disagree with something, I need to state my opinion in a clear and concise way. Well, once upon a time I stated my opinion in a clear and concise way. Now, I think I’m going to state my opinion with some pretty pictures and a blog entry that I hope doesn’t sound whiney or judgmental, both of which are equally annoying. I disagree with Kristen’s position in her post and in the long and lauded history of debate, I’m going to explain why.
Kristen’s argument is holiday celebrations have become overkill and she doesn’t want to disappoint her kids but other parents’ and teachers’ efforts are making it difficult for her to refuse to become a part of the insanity. The comments on her post include references to “real” moms who will agree with her post and “fake” moms who will hide on Pinterest and people cheering her on for posting a picture of a Valentine that cleverly and cutely says fuck you to the mom who started the Valentine “goodie bag trend”. Is that okay? Acceptable? Kind?
I am one of those moms that celebrates, big time, every holiday, large and small. This month alone the girls and I (and Steve, somewhat grudgingly) celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Pi day, and St. Patrick’s Day. We have made green eggs and ham, a pie, and rainbow cupcakes. We have made crafts and t-shirts. And I may or may not be sewing a skirt for Abigail that’s covered with Thing 1s and Thing 2s. Gracie and I made friendship bracelets for Valentine’s Day for her classmates. We do Elf on the Shelf at Christmas. We make Resurrection Rolls on Good Friday. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the moon landing with a moon cake decorated with astronauts (and in full disclosure, that was before the birth of Pinterest, so don’t even start blaming that site for my behavior). Plain and simple, I enjoy celebrating. Doing things like this with and for my girls makes me happy. What I didn’t realize is that it makes me an object of ridicule and worthy of cards with cuss words on them. I didn’t realize that it makes me competitive or over-the-top. Kristin’s suggestion is: “Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?”
Here’s the thing. I wouldn’t be happier if we all returned to those “slacker days” and I don’t think my girls would be either.
I already know that, in the world’s eyes, and particularly other mothers’ eyes, I am a failure as a mom. I have done just about everything wrong. I had a c-section and didn’t feel particularly bad about it. I vaccinated my children and didn’t agonize over Mercury or splitting the shots into sets. I send them to public school. I don’t feed them organic fruits and vegetables. Some days, they don’t eat vegetables at all. I let them watch TV on school nights. I drug my oldest daughter because she talks too much. I buy my cleaning supplies at the store. The girls drink bottled water. I work a lot when they’re home and they’re left, unsupervised, to their own devices. I don’t read to them every night. I don’t make Gracie practice her piano. I don’t exercise every day and let them see a positive female role model. I am disorganized and chaotic and I scramble every single morning to get them out the door with the things they need signed, or bagged, or printed, or stickered for school. I am not good at arranging schedules and keeping calendars and packing lunches for the week. I stink at the every day stuff but the out-of-the-ordinary holiday stuff – that I can do. And I do it well. So, can I have this please? My girls are stuck with my temper and my chaos and my inability to stay focused for long periods of time, so can they have “the awesome mom” for just this one thing? Please?
Can we just all agree that we have a certain number of hours in the day and that how we choose to spend that time is a personal decision? Yes, certainly I have better things to do with my time than make rainbow sprinkle cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day or friendship bracelets for Gracie’s class for Valentines Day. I could be doing any number of a million other things with that time. But, I choose not to.
Yesterday was an incredibly busy day – I volunteered at school, worked a full day at my computer programming job, and then, with the help of two of my awesome friends, pulled off a pretty cool scout meeting. After that, I sat for hours in the urgent care clinic with my mother, waiting to see if she has bronchitis or pneumonia. My grandmother was in the ER at the hospital across town with dangerously low blood pressure. When I stumbled in my front door close to 10:00 p.m., I finished up creating a couple of reports that my boss needs for this morning. The girls were asleep.. I felt sad that I missed seeing them before they went to bed and I didn’t get to hear Abigail talk about the leprechauns coming to her kindergarten classroom – Steve said she was so excited that the little green guys chose HER chair to tip over. I was feeling the sad tug of being a working mom who is smack in the middle of the sandwich generation and still trying to play an active role in her family’s life. Just before bed, I pulled up my pictures from Sunday. There on my screen was my big girl painting on the fondant covered sugar cookies that we stuck in our cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day. And, it made me smile. I could tell you about the educational value of the activity (how Abigail was the one to correct me and tell me that red is the longest arc in a rainbow, not violet and how Gracie knew the acronym for all the hues in a rainbow), but, honestly, that’s not important. I didn’t spend the time with them on Sunday making those cupcakes for any educational reason, just like I didn’t make the Valentine bracelets with Gracie to help her with her fine motor skills. Those are just bonuses. And I certainly didn’t do it because I’m competing with anyone (other than myself) or because I am part of some “Pinterest one-upmanship”. I have been doing these kinds of thing for years, long before Pinterest existed, even long before my girls were born. Celebrating and sharing is part of who I am; it makes me happy. I don’t think that makes me anything worthy of scorn any more than what you choose to do with your time makes you worthy of scorn.
If Kristen’s plan was to make women like me, who do “over the top” holidays feel bad, then she succeeded, at least in this little corner of the world. When I initially read the post, I admit to laughing a little and then feeling a little bad when I realized that I was the target of her post. As I see it shared again and again and again on Facebook and read the comments, I admit to tears forming as I realize how many people agree with her opinion.
What if we went about this a different way? What if we joined forces instead of ganging up on each other? I have a beautiful friend who is a phenomenal runner. She also strongly dislikes glitter. Gracie came home one day and asked me why I don’t run like Kristi. After I choked on my soda at the idea of running, I realized I had choices. I could feel bad about myself because I am not, and probably never will be, a runner. I could buy into my competitive nature and start running and complete a 1/2 marathon to prove to my daughter than I can do whatever she sees other moms doing. The truth is, that would be lunacy. So, I went with my other option. I explained to Gracie that partly because of anatomy and partly because of my poor, twisted back, but mostly because of my choices, I am not going to take up running. I also told her, if she ever wants to go and cheer Ms. Kristi on at a race, we will be there. And, if Gracie herself ever decides she wants to run a 5K or a 10K or around the world in 80 days, I will call Kristi and ask if she will help Gracie. The same goes true for learning about biology from my friend Lara or dressing like the most stylish woman on the planet from my friend Allison or accounting from my friend Missie or mad organizational skills from my sister. And, if anyone wants to send their kids to me for a day of glitter and paint and fondant and frosting and celebrating whatever holiday happens to fall on that day, my door is always open.