Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's My Party, I Can Cry If I Want To

I am a good mother.  I am a good mother.  I am a good mother.

At least, I thought I was.

Darcey's third birthday is tomorrow, and since I've waited, oh, half my life to throw a Princess-themed birthday party, I've decided this year is the year.  No matter that Darcey is probably too young to appreciate or even remember a birthday party.  No matter that she doesn't understand the birthday party concept enough to know she can ASK for a particular theme.  See, that's the beauty - this is MY party, disguised as my daughter's.  It's a win-win, and you know how much I love a win-win when one of the wins is mine.

My mom sent me a link to a blog with a cute Tinkerbell party idea.  There were magic wand party favors and fairy wings and Tink's Beauty Salon and crafts and homemade butterfly-shaped waffles for breakfast.  It was cute and inspiring, exactly what I was looking for.  Good, easy ideas for a girl's party.  But then I made a horrible mistake.

I kept looking at the website.

I know that doesn't seem drastic, but you don't understand the potency of a website like this.  This blogger plans elaborate - and adorable - parties and then posts the pictures with instructions to replicate the event at your very own house.  Instead of looking at these ideas for what they are - simply ideas - I'm looking at the blogger's life.  She throws birthday parties.  She celebrates not only the standard holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) but also the extra holidays, like St. Patrick's Day and April Fool's and Valentines Day.  She turns kids' playdates into full-blown events, with tablecloths and place settings and themes.  She throws parties for Dr. Seuss's birthday.  She throws parties for no reason, like a Curious George party or a My Favorite Things party for her girlfriends.  She babysat a friend's kids and turned it into a Teddy Bear Picnic.

When I babysit my friends' kids, they're lucky to come home with both shoes, let alone a goodie bag.

Do you realize what this means?  It means that this kind of lifestyle is possible.  And that's the reason I'm over here, hyperventilating.  Because this is the kind of mom I wish I was.  The kind that makes napkin rings out of coordinating scrapbooking paper.  The kind that makes party favors and goodie bags and homemade Death Star-shaped pinatas.  You know, the kind of mother that loves her children.

Ryan found me reading this blog, my self-respect shrinking with every ladybug-shaped-strawberry, and begged me to turn it off.  "You'll make yourself crazy reading that," he told me.

"But, look!  She sprinkles glitter on the guests' heads to turn them into princesses!"  I exclaim.

"That sounds messy."

"And then she sends a tube of princess dust home with each kid."

"You would do that to your friends?"

Um, okay, he had a point there.

"You know who I want to talk to?"  Ryan asked.  "I want to talk to this lady's husband.  I bet he is getting seriously neglected."

Yes, but think of the children, I wanted to say.  Brad and Noah were looking over my shoulder, exclaiming about the Hershey Kiss-shaped rice krispy treats and the firecrackers made out of Life Saver rolls.  "Admit it," I told Brad.  "You wish I did stuff like this."

He paused.  I know it's horrible to put your kid on the spot like that, but if I'm already a horrible mother, I might as well go all the way.  "No," he said loyally.  "That lady is a perfectionist.  I bet she makes her kids clean all the time."   Good answer.

I couldn't stop looking at the website.  It was a kind of parenting self-flagellation.  If I was a good mother, I'd throw a Polar Express party for my kids' friends at Christmas.  If I was a good mother, I'd make butterfly-shaped apple slices for their lunch box.  (That assumes I was a good enough mother to make their lunch, which I'm not.)  If I was a good mother, I'd print candy bar wrappers for every single holiday known to Hallmark.  If I was a good mother, I'd bake my kids' birthday cakes, instead of buying them.

What kind of lousy mother am I?  This wasn't how I was raised.  I used to make birthday cakes, and cool ones too.  I made a cake shaped like a hamburger, a basketball, a pool-shaped cake with Jello water and gummy sharks.  I used to throw parties that required hours of preparation.  Now I pride myself in how little work I can get away with and still call it a "party."  If I don't outsource the party to Chuck E. Cheese.

There's no other explanation for it - I've let myself go.

How can I live with myself?  My children are going to end up delinquents, living on the street, eating out of dumpsters, and when This American Life shows up and asks how their life went so horribly wrong, they'll say, "It's all my mother's fault.  She made me buy school lunch every day.  For my birthday, she gave me a store-bought cake and then made my friends run around the backyard for an hour.  There wasn't even a theme.  If only she had loved me enough to let me dip my own caramel apples!  If only our house was decorated for Chinese New Year!  Oh, the horror!"

I mock, but I really, truly wish I was that kind of mom.  I wish I could get a coalition of mothers together so we can decide on some kind of minimum standard for good-motherhood.  Anyone who exceeds those standards can do so if they want, but the rest of us, the lower-rung, under-achieving mothers, we don't have to feel obligated.  Until then, I'm just going to keep repeating my mantra.

I am a good mother.  I am a good mother.  I am a good mother.

*p.s.  I bet you're wondering where's the link to this uber-party website, right?  Well, I'm not going to give it to you.  I wouldn't do that to my friends.


Rachel said...

And I am a horrible mother for yelling at my kids to stop reading this blog over my shoulder and saying "Mom, what is so, what is so funny..." :)
Please don't give my children sprinkle dust. Ryan was right on that one.
I am impressed with Brad's answer - pretty good for a 12 year old.
And, if you start having teddy bear picnic parties and craft time when my kids go to your house, imagine the pressure that is going to put on me. As an average person sometimes barely surviving motherhood, I just don't think I can handle that. So, think of all the people whose self esteem you AREN'T damaging by not following in this woman's footsteps.
And by the way, does she actually have children, because mine have interrupted me at least 15 times while writing this comment, and I can't even imagine trying to be creative with that kind of mental interruption going on.

C Gordon said...

LOL!!! Hey claim those store-bought cakes as homemade. Just say "I made the dough that made the dough!"
I love this post!

Shaun said...

If a mother's self esteem was based on her child's confidence, poise, brilliance, athletic prowess, and good looks, then one look at Brad...and you'd have nothing left to write about!

Congratulations on a job well done.