The Parental Paradox & Caterpillar Conundrum—How I Grew Up to Be THAT Mom
When we’re young, we all have this fantastical vision of what we’ll be like when we grow up, including what kind of parent we’ll one day be. I know my ideals were largely affected by my own growing up years. My parents (like me and my husband) were small business owners. After the oil crash, they started a custom furniture business. Dad was always distracted and running to Dallas for tools. I’m unsure to this day whether or not my mother owned any clothes that didn’t have paint splatters or smell of furniture finish.
The Parental Pariah Paradigm
I remember being mortified when my mom would come get me at school. She was always in work clothes and never looked like the perfectly coiffed stay-at-home moms who came for my friends.
Dad picked me up in a work truck, not a Volvo. My brother and I would ride in the back, down the highway, amusing ourselves among the lumber and tools by tossing soda cans out the back and watching them bounce down the freeway (until we got a sound swatting on the side of I-20).
The School Project Paradox
School projects were a particular nightmare. My fifth grade teacher was a sadist who hated me no matter how hard I tried to please her.
Mt. St. Mortification
One time we had to make a volcano that erupted using baking soda. My parents were not only busy running a business, but they believed I needed to do my own projects, that it was good for my “character”…(code for “We have NO time for this, kid. You’re on your own!).
I recall my cute little lump of dirt I’d concocted from backyard mud and painted, how proud of it I was…until I saw the other kids’ projects.
One boy had this massive volcano that had to be carried in by adults. It was intricately painted, complete with little ferns and trees and a small village at the base of the mountain to be destroyed upon eruption.
I wanted to die.
Image via About.Com Chemistry’s Science Fair Volcano. If only my parents had the Internet.
The Insect Disintegration
Another project involved collecting insects local to the area, anesthetizing them with cotton balls of something that’s probably now illegal, then gluing them on a display of nails.
My little brother and I scoured for days searching for bugs, and, after days of work, all we had to show was a Folger’s can full of dead doodlebugs, some fire ants and a cricket or two…all of which had pretty much disintegrated to dust by the time my project was due.
My parents weren’t about to let a 6 and 10 year old loose with Superglue and NAILS. I settled for a shoebox and Scotch tape.
The other kids? They had these beautiful wooden displays of all kinds of colorful beetles and butterflies, perfectly preserved and each positioned beautifully on a display board. I was 26 years old before I realized the other kids’ parents had likely just ordered the bug displays from the local university’s Entomology Department.
The Entomological/Volcanic Sequester
I remember feeling like such a failure, and Mrs. E didn’t help. She’d sneer down her nose at me like I hadn’t tried. The others all got A+++++ and I counted myself lucky to pass. The other kids’ projects were displayed in the cafeteria because they were “true representatives of a fifth-grader’s ingenuity and talent.”
All I had to offer was a pile of painted mud and a shoebox of crispy bugs. My projects were left in the “Hall of Shame” (back in the classroom).
The Temporal Introspection
So here it is, almost thirty years later. My husband and I work super long days with our fledgling business, as I mentioned in last week’s post about the Author CEO.
Granted, what I failed to mention in that post is my “work” days are so long not because I am some Author Gordon Gekko, rather because I’m interrupted with 47 sword fights a day (at least Spawn lets me wear the Captain America mask), 22 tickle fights, and more than a few races through the house as I sing the “Baby Shark” song and hunt The Spawn down while he squeals and tries to hide.
Hubby and I are like Sheldon (Hubby) and a Sheldon-Howard-Penny (Me) from Big Bang Theory had a child.
The Entrepreneurial Enigma
“Work” includes stopping to help The Spawn through a level of Star Wars Angry Birds and refilling his sippy-cup every 20 minutes. It’s hard, and tiring. It makes long “work” days, but we love it. We love being a entrepreneurs so we can be home with The Spawn. We love that we made the decision to sacrifice so Daddy could be home. My husband takes him to the park so they can fight with light sabers and I can write.
The Caterpillar Conundrum
The nursery school he attends a few hours a day has sent home a request that we provide a butterfly or caterpillar costume. While dressing my son as a butterfly holds great promise, namely embarrassing pictures that can help ensure he won’t date until after he’s thirty, I think we’re going to try caterpillar. Yet, like my parents, we have little money and time and far less creativity.
The Mom Mimesis
I never thought I would be THAT mom, tho one who never wears makeup and lives in work clothes. I thought I’d be more Martha Stewart-ish. I’d drive a Saab and have perfect hair and wear clothes from Talbots…not the same yoga pants I wore through ten months of pregnancy and my favorite Green Lantern shirt.
The Mom-petition Matrix
At Valentines, the other moms had cute hand-decorated bags full of thoughtful items for my son’s class like pencils, stickers and Cookie Monster socks. Spawn? He had a bag of pre-made Valentines.
Easter? The other kids brought intricate little baskets and eggs. My son? A bag of plastic eggs already sealed and stuffed with candy.
The “School Play” Parsimony
We’ve been though this. I feel the pressure. I’ve seen the handmade costumes, but I just don’t have it. I can’t battle Thor and be hit with lightning 572 times a day while writing and picking cereal off every surface of my home…AND make a costume. I also can’t afford a fancy caterpillar costume off-line.
The Bat-Thor-WARS Variable
And there is the added challenge that Spawn refuses to wear anything that doesn’t have Thor, Batman or Star Wars on it. He will scream and strip, (which my husband and I count as parental “winning”, but we’re warped).
We’ve been though this with the 2011 Christmas play, the 2012 Spring Play and the 2012 Christmas play. Not only am I THAT mom, but I apparently I’m the mother of THAT kid.
***Note: The teachers love him and think he’s a joy. I am the only one feeling the pressure.
And Spawn TOTALLY rocks because he loves Star Wars, books and his mom and dad. His first words were “I love you” “please” and “thank you,” and that is proof we’ve done a lot of things right.
The Temporal Circumlocution
All things come full circle. It’s funny how life shows you things, how we see our parents differently when we’re suddenly in their shoes. I’m now proud of my lump of mud and my dried doodlebugs because I did those projects myself (okay, with help from my 6 year old brother).
One day, I hope The Spawn forgives me for the caterpillar costume, because at this point it looks like he might get safety-pinned in a bed-sheet. Apparently the State of Texas frowns on parents using duct tape on their kids, so I’m all out of ideas.
There is NO way he will keep anything but a Thor helmet on his head. Headband with antennae? *clutches sides laughing*
Any suggestions would be helpful, but my main concern is unless he is glued into this costume or is somehow made into a rare breed of caterpillar with R2-D2 in its markings, he’ll strip and run.
The Awesome Algorithm
But, you know what? I’d rather my son be an AWESOME nerd than some Stepford Craft Kid to help my ego. Yeah, his mom isn’t Martha Stewart, she’s a Social Media Jedi ;).
And yes *twitches* we are a little different :P.
What are your thoughts? Were you THAT kid? The one with the embarrassing costume or school project? Did you eventually understand your parents better? Do you think school projects are evil? What was your worst school play experience? Worst school project? Or did you have an awesome crafty mom? What was it like?
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To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!