Do you know what I spent my Saturday doing? Paying for a mistake I made three years ago.
August of 2011, and Adelaide is getting ready to enter Kindergarten. She is anxious, positive that she will have no friends and get lost and be bored and not entirely sure why I'm abandoning her to the cruel whims of the United States public education system.
Included on the exhaustive supply list was a required 12x12-inch pillow. They use this for the post-lunch rest time, which five- and six-year olds need so they can get ready for some afternoon learnin' and I can only assume the teachers need because they spend their days in a cramped room with 25 small children, in return for which they receive a pittance of a salary and, ahem, "feedback" from parents even more irrational than their "genius" offspring. ("Genius": the second most overused word in the English language, right after "surreal.")
Because Adelaide was having such a hard time with the idea of going to school and being away from me, I wanted her to have something at school that would be familiar and comforting, and so, rather than a generic pillow, I cut up one of my old shirts in her then-favorite color- pink- and made it into a pillowcase, embroidering her name and some multi-colored flowers on the front, because I am an idiot.
I knew better. Or I should have. I do not scrapbook. I do not throw lavish birthday parties. I do not celebrate arbitrary holidays created by vast corporations with a product to push. I set the bar as low as possible the first time around, because I know that each time I do something and label it a tradition, as far as our children are concerned, I am signing a blood contract to forevermore execute said tradition in at least as exciting a way as I did the first time.
I understand the impulse to over-celebrate the crap out of every tiny milestone that comes your child's way, and I am not saying you shouldn't make your child feel cherished and loved to absolute pieces on a daily basis. What I am saying is that every time you're in the store and you see that simply darling last-day-of-summer-vacation pinata or you're on Pinterest and All The Moms are making four-course breakfasts for their child's first day of school, the question you need to ask yourself is this one: How much do I hate myself?
When you're doing that extra-special kid-centered thing you've gotta realize that you should be taking the time, money, and energy spent on it times the number of years they're going to live in your house times however many children you have, because even as I was hunched over Atticus's Kindergarten pillow embroidering his name into a scrap of some old corduroy pants of mine, Caedmon was mouth-breathing in my face, "When am I going to get a special pillow with my name and a picture on it? Can you make it out of this?" He was touching and asking for the actual shirt off my back, and three years too late, I realized this is the price you pay for over-achieving even once.
I finished our second-born's pillow, then made a gourmet lunch of popcorn, raisins, and granola bars, which I wouldn't even allow them to eat in the house because I was just done. That pillow used up, like, a three-day supply of motherly patience and creativity.
The one upside to my anti-Martha Stewart parenting practices is that our children are in awe when I make the slightest effort. I made them each a little book to write in out of squares of white paper I cut up and stapled together. You'd think I'd felled the trees to create the paper, mined the iron ore from the ground for the staples. Their mouths were literally hanging open at this wizardry. So if one of our children shows you one of their "books" they've written, do me a favor and act astounded at this creation. Maybe throw around terms like "Best Mom Ever" and "Luckiest Child Alive." Also don't show them all the incredible things you do for your own children. It takes a village to keep expectations this low.