“Calm yourselves.” That’s what I wanted to say to a group of mothers I was eavesdropping on while I let my dogs enjoy the olfactory wonder that is playground wood mulch.
These women, pushing toddlers on swings, were in a tizzy over the latest Pinterest something or other that showed how to create “reading trees” for your child.
The whole thing sounded very labor intensive. Once they mentioned crafting a tree out of castoff twigs spray-painted to match the kid’s room, I was tuning out. By the time they got to glue gunning the twigs to a base I was ready to walk away, but stayed long enough to hear one mom explain how she recreated, in miniature, cover art for each book her child read and then hung the “book” on the tree with hand-dyed twine.
Sure, there were a lot of things I wanted to say besides, “Calm yourself.” Like, “Really, hand-dyed twine? Who does that?” And more importantly, “Here’s a craft project for you: What if you spent less time ‘twigging’ and more time actually reading to your kid?”
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Alas, because I’m working on minding my own business, I just tugged on my dogs’ leashes and continued my walk.
I, sort of, understand where these moms are coming from. My parenting journey is split into two different spheres.
When my son was born, I didn’t own a cellphone and there was no social media. The closest thing we had to Pinterest were scrapbook or “crop” parties where women would get together, have a cocktail and paste together cutesy photo pages of their kid’s first haircut. In reality it was more like boozing with glue sticks.
A decade, and another child later, it was a different world. Moms posted how many centimeters they were dilated and live tweeted during their child’s birth. Parenting had gone 24/7 show and tell.
It’s like if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it does it make a sound? Except this version is if you’re a mother and no one sees social media posts of your daily triumphs and creations, are you really doing a good job?
Today not even a kid’s lunch is safe from a selfie. Have you seen the lunchbox art taking place these days? Parents are Edward Scissorhands. Forget the Smuckers Uncrustable. PB&J sandwiches are now sculpted to resemble Hogwarts with carrots peeled to look like Quidditch brooms.
But is all the time and effort put into creating what amounts to daily pictorial of your parenting worth it? Are you creating any lasting childhood memories or is it just a distraction from doing the hard and often not very photogenic work required to be a decent parent?
Recently, I asked my son, now in college, what his most profound childhood memories were. Topping the list were my “screaming fits.” Second was that I had “zero follow-through of any punishment” I had ever threatened. Before he got to No. 3, I stopped him and clarified that I was looking for good memories.
“Oh, that’s easy,” he eagerly replied. “It’s the time we were at a stoplight and you were yelling at Isabella (his sister) and me in the car. So, we rolled down the windows because we noticed the principal was right next to us at the stoplight and he heard and saw you going ballistic. And then, here’s my favorite part, your face when you realized it was the principal’s car next to ours AND that the windows were down!”
I was stunned and also laughing when I said, “That’s your childhood takeaway?”
“Okay, sorry I loved your ‘Lifeguard Sherry’ stories.”
Now that made me smile. When my kids were little I would make up action-adventure stories featuring me as a super hero lifeguard. I wrestled sharks and used them as surfboards to save swimmers. I zip-lined down ski chair lifts and tamed a grizzly so I could ride him to reach mountain climbers buried under an avalanche.
Then I remembered that earlier this year when my 14-year-old daughter was in the hospital I asked her what I could do make her feel better. Her response: “Tell me a Lifeguard Sherry story.”
Never would I have guessed that those outlandish tall tales I told would become my kids’ “best of mom” memories.
So mothers, seriously, calm yourselves. You don’t have to “post” every moment, you don’t have to make reading trees or origami sandwich art for your child’s lunch box. No kid cares how many likes, retweets or shares their parents get on social media or that you carved a pineapple to look like the cast from Frozen and that it got 100 repins on Pinterest.
Kids haven’t changed that much. All they really want is your attention or in my case, stories about a mom who could surf with sharks and saddle up a bear.