I have a confession to make. I’m not a very good “special-day” parent. I’m more of an everyday mama. Sort of like the difference between fancy holiday china and school-night plastic plates from Ikea.
You’re probably thinking—Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a great mom! Well, thanks. I like to think I am a good mom. It’s certainly the most important work I’ve ever done, and I love it more than anything.
Being an everyday mom
Flashy? Nope. My style lends itself more to the day-in, day-out practice of parenting. I excel over weeks and months. I’m consistent and dedicated and faithful. I have never—not once—created a Harry Potter-themed escape room for a birthday party. I want to. I just don’t think about it in time.
When my older son was just a little fella, he wanted to be a puppy for Halloween. Not just any puppy, though, but our cousins’ dog Betty. Betty was brown. That year, all the ready-made costumes were black and white spotted dogs. Not just right so I decided to make a costume. I bought the fabric and the notions. I found a pattern. (I’m a really good shopper. But that’s another story altogether.) I sat down at my modest portable machine and used as many of the sewing skills as I could recall from middle school home ec. It went okay. I managed to make a dog-ish costume, and the only major problem was the inside-out zipper. On October 31, my son refused to even try it on. I couldn’t really blame him. He didn’t wear it until February 14.
Fast forward to elementary school classroom parties. My parties are organized and fun, but kind of low-key. I’m a holiday bingo kind of room parent. The principal came in during a party I planned once and said, “this is my favorite kind of party.” The principal. No one ever broke their arm on my watch (which may have been the result of the giant crash we heard from next door) and no kid ever said it was the very best time ever.
Another year, I was across the hall from a party with dry ice smoke and a spooky candelabra that lit up. I just had to hope my son’s second grade friends didn’t look out the door to see what the other class was doing while we ran our black and orange balloon relay.
Everyday moms and special-day moms
The divide between everyday and special-day moms has never been more apparent than during these stay-at-home weeks. Special-day moms embraced the opportunity that quarantine has provided. They have been staging plays and building tree houses and cooking gourmet meals. At the same time, everyday moms took a look around and saw a time that cried out for new schedules and new routines.
Ironically, it seems like I collect a lot of HGTV-meets-Nickelodeon moms as friends. My social media feed is filled with fantastical homemade obstacle courses, April Fool’s prank videos, and super creative Valentine boxes. I love all those pictures!
I’ll bet you thought I was headed toward a conclusion where I decided to become a special-day mom or doubled down on “Regular Joe” parenting. Well, yes and no.
The truth is we’re all the best kind of moms. We’re the kind of moms our kids need us to be. I suspect we’re the kind of moms our friends need us to be, too. I need the encouragement to try a little harder when it matters, and I remind my friends to relax a little when it doesn’t matter.
We are all trying to be really good at the most challenging and exciting job in the world. We need someone to push us outside our comfort zones and pull us back when our ideas get too big and crazy. We need to be reminded that the every day is important and the special day is, too.
That’s the paradox of parenting. It all matters a little bit and no one thing matters the most.
Hasn’t that been especially true during these last weeks? Mamas have been challenged to find new ways to create safe spaces for their families. We have needed both the grand gestures and the tender moments.
So I’ll keep going in my everyday mom way. And I’ll try not to panic when someone asks me if I’ve decorated my front door to celebrate my soon-to-be graduate. Not yet, I say. Thanks for the good idea. (Writer’s note: I ordered a cute sign for our door. There were graduation ones available but I chose one I could use every day.)