The Parental Paradox & Caterpillar Conundrum—How I Grew Up to Be THAT Mom

Yes, The Spawn is really BAT-THOR.

Yes, The Spawn is really BAT-THOR.

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.

I was up against THIS kid.

I was up against THIS kid.

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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.18.48 AM

Spawn uses “The Force” to help me with revisions.

Then Yesterday…

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.

Need some adverbs taken out?

My “work” clothes.

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?

I love hearing from you!

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 novelor 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!


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  1. Rock on, Kristen. We are all THAT Mom or Dad. And it’s lovely!!!

  2. I have a buggy kid, and he made his own praying mantis costume for Halloween (I’m sure the only one in the universe dressed as this…the year before was Boba Fett). Anyway, wIngs:we had a huge roll of paper, kind of thick but pliable, and he drew the wings, we painted with watercolor and cut them out. Wore green. Antennae made from pipe cleaners strung together and a bit of tin foil shaped how he wanted them. Oh, and a mask made the same way, strung around his head w/pipe cleaners. Maybe you can try that w/the caterpillar or butterfly–different shape of course and can string on top of the Thor helmet ( I think I saw a Thor Caterpillar in the Peterson field guide to caterpillars anyway, I’m sure there is one!). Good luck! Oh, and I’m not so crafty but have learned to be better about it–now that my son is 8, he has great ideas and just tends to run with it and i help w/the vision…maybe you can be the follower of his vision?

  3. “His first words were “I love you” “please” and “thank you,”…”

    If you have accomplished this, you have done better than most parents, PERIOD. Well Done!

    • Lin Barrett on April 17, 2013 at 11:00 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, not one of us, any of us, writer or not, is ever “normal.” Normal does not exist. As you point out, he loves you, you love him, and you haven’t squashed him. You’re doing everything right, down to and including the yoga pants.

    Now then: explain to Spawn that Thor has to pretend he’s a caterpillar in order to fool Loki. Sit down with him and Google “Images of caterpillars.” Take one he likes and pin various appendages made of rags to a that-caterpillar-colored T-shirt. Do the same to the Thor helmet, if possible. I recommend repositionable adhesive but spray it lightly onto the helmet while the helmet rests on something that is disposable. Trust me on this; a spray-painting booth would actually be preferable if you have one. Rubber cement might work too, although it may mark the helmet (“Spawn, that’s just where Loki’s sword bounced off Thor’s helmet”).

    And after that … the heck anyone else’s opinion. May I also offer the view that you are teaching Spawn the absolutely essential quality of living beyond image management? It’s the content of your life, not its appearance to others, which matters: and you teach him that by example every day that you get into that Green Lantern t-shirt and THOSE yoga pants. Rock on, sister. Ur doin’ it awl rite.

  4. I always felt the shame of never having the handmade costume or homemade cookies either! I swore I’d “do better” for my young’uns, and I did.
    I was a stay at home mom for 8 years. I made those intricately decorated cookies, and made homemade costumes for Halloween (I’m particularly proud of my son as Captain Hook.) I was in constant competition with an imaginary perfect wife and mom that lived in my brain, I never won against her, and never felt succesful.
    I started to work full time this past August.
    If I couldn’t best the Stepford wife phantom as a stay home mom, I certainly couldn’t while working full time! I’ve now learned the joys of the store-bought cookie. The teachers though, are lamenting my baked goods, so…
    Confession: I recently bought 36 cupcakes from the Kroger Deli that were un-iced…I decorated them for Easter and sent them to school.

    1. *high five*!!!!

  5. When I was about five, and there was the little neighborhood bike parade at the park, all the kids decorated their bikes with spiffy flags and streamers and baseball cards fastened with clothespins to the spokes to make them sound like motorbike. We turned my tiny two wheeler into a little donkey, with a head and tail, and I rode in the parade on my donkey dressed as Friar Tuck. The winter of the Big Snow, when the other kids were making snowmen on the front lawn, we made a giant snow-sphinx with stairs built into the shoulder so we could climb up, and slide down a well-iced groove down its back. It was so big we still had snow on our front lawn in April.

    No, the other kids didn’t quite ‘get’ us. But we didn’t really care–there were seven of us, and we found ways to amuse ourselves on The Planet Baltuck.

  6. Caterpillar costume – go to a fabric store find caterpillar like fabric – usually lots of remnants – buy – sew! or if you are like me ‘cobble’ seams together. Cut holes for arms. Buy hairband with bobbles on for antenna. Put Batman logo on front of chest to appease spawn. Felt marker spots on fabric if no caterpillar type fabric can be found (stripes) Face paint green & brown – should do the trick!
    As for school plays, projects etc. I did mine with a little help – both parents worked outside home. I helped my two kids with their projects & got grandma to make costumes – she is a wizard at that.
    Have fun with it.

    1. Unfortunately I can’t sew. Lol

      1. A stapler works just as well!

  7. Hahaha! I just felt like this when I dropped my son off at school this morning. He’s in kindergarten, and voluntarily wanted to participate in the school science fair. He did an age-appropriate project (planted seeds and watched them grow). I wrote down what he dictated about his observations about the plants and we glued the statements onto the board. I thought it was pretty cute… ’til I saw the other projects all set up. Wow.. so clearly the work of adults. Anyways, yes, I was THAT kid. And maybe I am THAT mom. But I don’t value crafty stuff… I value creativity. I believe doing projects for our kids hinders their developing curiosity and desire to learn. Yes, we can guide them and assist them in little ways when needed, but my son shows such joy and pride in the work he does himself. You’re probably the creative, resilient person you are today because of the way you were raised. And, my boy would NEVER have worn a caterpillar or butterfly costume, even if everyone else was. He’d have been happy in a green t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of antennae on his head (and I’m sure a super-hero mask to go with it).

    • Thomas Linehan on April 17, 2013 at 11:16 am
    • Reply

    Being the youngest of 15, nothing was normal. We had a pot in the house in the winter and an outhouse in the summer. We walked a half mile to catch the bus and walked back late in the day, and it was up hill both ways. The road was muddy in the spring and cold in the winter. To this day I have to have insulated boots just to go out the driveway to get the mail, but you know what? We survived it, and most of us were supervisors on construction or in factories, and engineers, and raised good kids. I guess through it all it’s why in retirement I am a writer. It’s nice to hear others that survived it all. Now with 11 grandchildren I’m trying to demonstrate that there’s always something better and through my writing that you can do what ever you want as long as you work at it and keep working on it until you succeed. Failure is not an option.
    I don’t know you Kristen, but I love you because you are a real person and produce great blogs.

    1. What a fabulous comment and THANK YOU for making my YEAR! I love you guys, too, which is why this blog never feels like work. Thanks so, so much ((HUGS))

  8. I’m becoming more THAT mom the older my kids get. The best I’ve done for them is to crochet a dinosaur sweater and matching tail which has been used for 3 Halloweens now. lol

    I was always THAT kid until my wonderfully crafty step-mom came along. But even she wasn’t too great with the science projects. What you described was excactly me. 😀

  9. I’m THAT mom too. But you know what – I’m proud of it! My girls are growing up to be independent, do-it-yourselfers who don’t count on their parents to do everything for them.
    Wanna bet in another 20-30 years whose kids will be taking over the world, and whose will be living at hom in mom’ basement? Yeah, be proud, Kristen. Because your Batman is going to rule the world one day!

  10. I think schools are over-the-top with all the things they want these days. We had “special” days where we had to send in treats at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. Enough already. I am about as crafty as my sofa, and my money can be spent in many more important ways. I am dreading costumes. My child will do school projects with minimal help, as I did. The kid learns nothing from the project otherwise–except that Mom and Dad will always take care of everything for him. Yeah, that’s real life.

    As for the Spawn’s costume… how about he be a bat “butterfly”? All it takes is some black wings strapped on his back and he’s good to go. Tell him he’s Batman’s assistant.

  11. I was one of those hand-me-down kids. With five older sisters, I didn’t often get new clothes. When I went to school, the teacher said, “Oh. *long silence* You’re a Kroey kid. How many more Kroeys are at home?” I guess she was excited to see me.
    I was the one Brownie who didn’t have a Brownie uniform, and I was the one Girl Scout who wore an out-of-current-style-hand-out-from-the-Girl-Scout-leader uniform. And for the record, I never had a store-bought Halloween costume.
    I was a kid on the edges. But when I grew up, I became a special ed teacher and looked out for those kids on the edges, the ones who weren’t the apple-polishers or the shiny-project-makers. I like to think that my background made me who I am. Then, of course, I joined a WANA group and started blogging (using my own name as my blog name just like you told us, Kristen)) and now I . . . well, we won’t go there. Thanks for your post, Kristen. You always make me smile.

    1. I have a feeling most of us WANAs are “From the Fringes Kids” LOL.

    • DeeAnna Galbraith on April 17, 2013 at 11:27 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, my mother did not own a needle, or thread of any color. She took her clothes to the dry cleaners to have buttons sewn back on until she passed away in her mid eighties. My mother-in-law, however, was a home-ec major and made all the clothes including the jeans her boys wore until they were in high school. Everything got pressed, including sheets, on her commercial mangle in the basement.

    I fall somewhere in between. Sibs and I were hobos every Halloween – trip to the thrift shop to buy an old man’s suit jacket, then we glued cut-out patches on it. (Got passed down to younger kids until worn out.) Stick from a tree, and dad’s handkerchief filled with newspaper tied to end of stick for hobo’s belongings. Creative, yes, but embarrassing as hell to be known as ‘the hobo family’.
    Never had a stay-at-home mom, but I envy your “freedom”

  12. I am far from crafty, but the best thing that ever happened to my son’s costumes (and uniform pants and other clothing that regularly tears and needs hemming) is Stitch Witchery. Just iron the pieces together, and it looks like you spent hours sewing! WIN!!!

  13. My mom was certain she could sew my school pants. She never figured out the waste band, so I always wore sweaters to hide the elastic that poked out in spots. Satan’s minion (my drama teacher) made me take the sweater off for play photographs. Why? To embarrass me.

  14. I confess I was a single mom with three kids when I was in graduate school, working on a Ph.D. You can guess how much time I had for that b.s. I frankly hate that schools, at least for grades below middle school, assume, demand and expect such nonsense from parents (and we know that it’s really MOTHERS–fathers aren’t even expected at parent/teacher conferences, if there’s a father living in the city.) Enough of my bitching. My kids know I love ’em and did the best I could. Hard to toss all the guilt even now when the ‘baby’ is 40.
    I guess my elementary school was so rural and so long ago, we didn’t have any of that stuff. I have no memory of being asked for costumes or even cookies. I’m sure my mom would have tried, though.
    But we all know struggles make us tough! Thanks for a great blog. Your son is a lucky boy.

  15. I converted the old and unused coal (yes coal) bin into a chemistry lab. I was in sixth grade. With the stink bombe and the explosions, I kept my mother upstairs and away from me. This way I survived my life

  16. Thank you for that. My work clothes are usually bleach or paint splattered, and I also sent my daughter to school with pre-made valentines. On the flip side, we consider being ‘different’ as a fun thing. Instead of doing the traditional family activities we do thing like paint our trees with wet chalk and painting rock “animals” to sit below it. Of course, that could be why our neighbors avoid us, lol.

  17. While I’m at home ripping out my hair thinking we’re the worst parents ever, my kids are at school impressing their teachers. My daughter’s science teacher actually pulled me aside at school to tell me my husband and I should teach parenting classes, my daughter is so wonderful. (I’m not kidding.) We can feel like failures all we want at home, we can look at what the other parents and kids are doing and wonder how they look so put together when we feel out of control, but at the end of the day, we just have to keep doing what we believe is right and let things work themselves out. Chances are, we’re doing better than we think. And maybe someone (like a science teacher) will come along and point out how far ahead of the curve we really are.

  18. You could draw a batman symbol on his chest before he gets dressed – so he could go in Batman-stealth mode. (Sometimes we go in stealth-Indiana-Jones mode.)

    1. We’ve tried this before, it doesn’t work. He cries, runs away, tears of his shirts, and leaves only batman on. Lol

  19. Hot glue and velcro!!! Go to Wal Mart and get some of that furry blanket fabric. Cut it to fit the spawn (I’d even give him arm holes) and then hot glue the velcro down the front. Hot glue some feaking dots and you got a caterpillar baby! ( I am totally NOT crafty, so this may or may not work.)

  20. My mom was awesome, but she didn’t speak or read English. BShe did what she could, but I did almost every project, etc. on my own. It made me feel sad, stupid, and unAmerican.

  21. Kristen, you’ve probably already gotten this suggestion, but IF YOU HAVE TIME to go to a fabric store and get some of that fleece stuff (doesn’t have to be sewn and you can cut it at will) in a Batman or Star Wars pattern, you could make the Spawn into a Batman/Star Wars caterpillar — they’ll also have bins with extra safety pins ’cause you’re probably gonna need a lot. They also may be able to recommend some kind of fastening that will be easier for you to get the Spawn in and OUT of the costume more easily…(glue on Velcro?) You could dismember the headband with the antenna and glue the antenna onto a Batman mask …. at least maybe you wouldn’t get a call from the pre-school advising you to come and bring the Spawn some clothes to put on after he strips.

    I always had to do my own school projects (both parents worked), but in my day teachers EXPECTED us to do our own — helicopter parents came along much later. My most disastrous project was the one where we were supposed to make planets out of balloons and paper mache (painted after it dried), and in my case some extra cardboard that I had to paint to make the “rings” around Saturn. The idea was that we would suspend them from the ceiling of our 5th grade classroom and in this way we would learn about the Solar System. OMG. A freaking mess and Saturn wasn’t the only planet to come out looking like a Jerusalem artichoke. I’ll never forget it.

  22. Oh my goodness, this post made my day. I love reading about parents tickling and running through the house and playing swords. I raised four boys and one girl. Lots of sword fights!

    I currently write with twins sons, age 18, with autism and developmental delays, a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, and a late-blooming 22 year old with bipolar. Did I mention a husband with ADD who also works from home? INTERRUPTIONS? We’ve got ’em here, too. It would be easier to rent an office outside the house, but then I’d miss all the hilarity. And my family comes first, as yours does.

    I don’t have a clue how to get Spawn to wear a caterpillar costume but I’d make it simple. Maybe just a shirt with a caterpillar drawn on it wearing a batman suit and paint his face (will he let you do that?). Three of my kids practically refused to wear clothes in the first place so I’m no expert. Around here it’s always been, “whatever it takes to survive!” one more day, hour, minute. (Thank you, autism!)

    Hope you post a pic of the costume! Spawn is ADORBZ.

    1. .

  23. Yes, I thought I would be much more Martha Stewart-esque too. Sweetpea is only two, but I have already realized I don’t have what it takes with the birthday parties, etc. And as for the cereal on every surface, I just pray that’s what she leaves on the sofa — instead of blueberries… >_<

  24. As a former 1st grade teacher, I have to say that I didn’t want the parents to “help” with the projects and even scolded a few for doing it. As a parent, my kiddos used my craft supplies (my hubby thinks I have a sickness) to create their form of perfection. Any teacher who thinks that parents should be helping (read “doing it for them”) is not a good teacher! Its all about what the kids learn from the experience.

  25. My mum was too busy to be a Martha Stewart mum so that never washed off on me. I’m at home most of the time and I never make amazing things. I think it’s great you were left to do projects. It was my biggest peeve in New Zealand how much mum’s practically did the kid’s homework for them, of course I didn’t know everybody 😉 but it seems a thing of the times to ‘have the best’
    I am tempted to look on Pinterest for you though, they have easy things too 😉

  26. Have you got a green sleeping bag?

  27. My mother was sick a good part of the time I was in school, my dad was wrapped up in business. they were not crafty and adopted a REALLY uncrafty kid (me). My school projects were nightmares of shoeboxes and craft paper. Your son looks like he could wear out a ADD spider monkey on caffeine. I’m amazed you keep up with him and still get out your posts. I’m without child and I can barely keep up. Kristen you rock as a mother and when the stay at home Martha Stewart clones get you down remember your son will probably date and marry a far more interesting girl the clone off-spring.

  28. It’s a cute blog article. I have nothing to add whatsoever. I had no mom. My father never once sought to fill in the emptiness. Whatever you do for a child with love is enough. You don’t need to listen to other people’s judgments. Listen with your heart.

    • Bonnie on April 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    • Reply

    Glue or Duct tape pipe cleaners on Thor helmet for antennas. Get a plastic garbage bag and cut a hole in the top to have his head stick out.
    He can be a catapiller in a cocoon.
    Teachers used to get me angry when they would assign parents projects. My kids were mostly on their own too.

    Good luck

    1. This is what I was going to suggest. Put him in an acceptable (to him) costume and then pin or hollywood-tape the caterpillar stuff (dye a bed-sheet green, maybe) onto the Batman/Star Wars costume.

      In the same boat – I have two under five and the elder is now at Kinder requiring costumes and other parental involvement requiring shortcuts to the local cheapo-costume-and-party-supply store. At least I had to get out a needle and thread to shorten the Darth Vader cape I bought – felt like I was doing something towards the costume at least 😉 Good luck!

  29. I love CC’s suggestion to use fabric with the super hero symbols. A Thor-Batman caterpiller.

    Anything no-sew for me, too. Sadly, I’m more like THAT mom with the second child. Poor thing. LOL.

    My older daughter refused to wear anything pink starting at 18 months old. It wasn’t a simple refusal either. It was a screaming-tearing-at-the-offending-outfit fit. I feel your pain!

    Good luck with the project. I hope you post pictures when the masterpiece is done (and before he strips out of it).

  30. I was one of those kids too– my mom was busy trying to keep up with four children while on a medication that left her asleep for most of the day, while my dad was out of town most of the year on business trips.

    I remember looking at everyone else during projects and stuff and wondering how on EARTH they were so much better at… well, pretty much EVERYTHING than I was. I think for the most part I tried to suppress those memories and the associated inferiority complex when I got to college, but this really puts things in a new light.

    I appreciate you writing it. It really does make me feel better about a lot of things.

    1. For years I didn’t realize the PARENTS were doing the projects. I felt like such a loser. Then one day, it was like, “WTH? Wait a minute…..” It was actually my old boss who mentioned how they got the bugs. No idea how we started talking about the subject, but he says, “Oh, yeah. They made our daughter do that too. We just bought a display from the college.” *head desk*

  31. Sleeping bags make GREAT caterpillar costumes, particularly the ‘mummy bag’ style ones that are a little more shaped. You can get child-sized ones: they’re not expensive, and you can use them on holiday or camping. I remember as a kid wanting one solely so that I could be a caterpillar in it. They’re brilliant … until you need to get up the stairs wearing them.

    • Aerisa on April 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm
    • Reply

    Haha great post. I remember learning about the Australian Bush and how we had to build a model that people back in the day would’ve lived in. I ended up making a tent. It was cut up an old box, pitched up with toothpicks and covered in strips of my dad’s old socks. Bringing it into school, I saw everyone else had masterpieces glued on display platforms with plastic trees and all.

    Nowadays, I just put it down to being creative with what you have – totally setting us up for the future to use a different part of our brains. Genius for such a young age 🙂

  32. In reading your post, I’m starting to realize there was a reason our ancestors sent their kids to boarding school – – one so far away that parents couldn’t be expected to make the trip to deliver the play costume….


    1. ROFL. Awesome.

  33. Jedi Caterpillar? That can’t be too difficult a costume to make. I mean, let’s face it, the Jedi kinda dressed like slobs.

  34. I would suggest a butterfly costume.

    I have a story for children with the title JUDY’S BUTTERFLY HOUSE published in the Crowder Quill Fall 2003, a literary-art magazine published by Crowder College at Neosho, Missouri.

    Members of a local writing group suggested entering the local writing contest. Any publication credit would lead to the bigger publication someday.

    I found out that the journalism teacher, in charge, graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism – the number one school for Journalism in America – so it became a challenge as much as getting published with Highlights For Children and Cricket Magazine.

    Judy’s Butterfly House was rejected by Highlights and the Cricket Group, so I was very proud when I read it in a school of journalism publication.

    The wide and colorful wings of a monarch butterfly, if you can make it, will make him look like a super hero better than the cape of Thor or Batman.

    During freshman high school Biology we had to collect insects and the monarch butterfly was common and easy to catch but pre-planned. You had to use a long sewing pin to secure the dead butterfly or what I thought of afterwards was to use a polyurethane spray to preserve the butterfly. But you have to be careful that you only lightly mist it on to a poster board.

  35. I did try…really, I did! But I had four kids at school and I was tired, so, yes, I was that mum. My kids were those kids and I hang my head in shame.
    I did better with my fifth child because I home-schooled her all the way through. She was a late baby: I was forty-five when I had her, and I couldn’t face the whole school thing yet again. So we did the projects we wanted, the ones she found interesting, We went on school trips wherever and whenever we felt like it. We started and finished our school days when the work we planned was done. And best of all…there was no one to criticise my efforts or to turn their nose up at my baggy jogging trousers. Victory was mine! Yes!

  36. Hey, I’m That Mom, too! Except that I never really expected to be Martha Stewart. My kids are fed, clothed, (usually) clean and generally well-mannered, and they’re learning to respect other people. Maybe they won’t always have the best science projects; I’ll help with homework, I won’t do it for them. They will definitely never have the really good costumes in a school play, unless they learn to sew.

    I think my mom felt like she had to be the super mom, and it was hard for her. She sewed me a pink unicorn costume for Halloween one year, threw great birthday parties when she could, even dressed up for our Halloween party that we had one year, and she was battling undiagnosed depression the whole time. Looking back, I wish she hadn’t pushed herself so hard. We appreciated that stuff, but that wasn’t what was most important. Even as kids, my brother and I knew that.

    No, G.I, Joe and My Little Pony were the most important things.

    And then we got older, and our family being happy became important, too. Now that I’m a mom I feel terrible knowing that she probably didn’t enjoy that stuff any more than I do now. I don’t want my kids to feel guilty like that some day, so really, I’m doing them a favour by… eh, whatever. I’m That Mom. End of story.

  37. l was that child too. The one who did her own science experiments and made her own weird costumes. The weird one who actually OWNED her own cyanide jar for murdering insects and yes went to the local college entymology department and had them show me how to correctly mount my specimens. (l begin to suspect there might be some Sheldon tendencies here somewhere…hmmm)

    My own beloved spawn (7 of them) have endured my homemade costumes for every Halloween and l discovered almost anything could be made out of sweats and felt and some ingenuity. They never had fancy parties with themes…we did the park and cookouts and frisbee. They have thus far survived. l have some in college. Dean’s List just like mom. And a 4 yr old who is currently running up and down the hall with his bubble-mower. l am still awaiting the day l become my favorite aunt who was never seen without makeup and pearls and heels…even when they threw cookout parties. Whose house was always spotless (unlike mine which has only hardwood floors because vaccumng was just so pointless). l finally realzed to become her l would have to…ya know…GROW UP.

    And what fun would that be?
    Live a life of JOY. The competition and perfection and the dirt don’t mean a thing in the grand scheme of things…and our spawn grow up to be their own people…just like we did.

  38. I am afraid to find out what the teachers and other parents think of my hubby and I.

    We homeschooled for years, not because we wanted to protect our kids from bad language but because we didn’t want to have to curb our cussing at home LOL. My daughter tells her friend and teachers that I am a world famous gay erotic romance fanfiction author.

    We almost never go to any events or parent teacher conferences- hello I home-schooled, now its their turn what do they need me for?

    We don;t have a car, and apparently the teachers think we are the poorest people in Tucson.

    As for the caterpillar, what if you told him Loki turned Thor into a caterpillar? You could use Thor’s colors and maybe give him a very small hammer.

  39. I send my girls to school with store bought valentines with pencils taped to it. I used to feel bad when compared to the other crafty moms. The older I get, the less I care. (Most days.)

    BTW – Surely there was a caterpillar looking creature in the cantina on Star Wars IV. Just sayin’

  40. Any kid that love’s Batman is on the right track in my opinion.
    I was sort of THAT child. My dad helped with science projects and my mom helped with the other stuff, but there was never much money, so we used what we had on hand.

    My favorite costume was one of my mom’s billowy skirts and all of her left-over-from-the-’70s necklaces to make me into a gypsy. I loved it! Also – white bed sheet + safety pins = a really great beansidhe costume when you add some white face paint and a bit of your mom’s red lipstick.

    And you can build a blue-ribbon science project on the behavior of light with just a mirror and a prism.

    I’m glad my parents were THOSE parents. I think I learned a lot because of it.

  41. Gah! If I lived closer, I’d whip a costume together for you. I sometimes design, and expertly build costumes! Since I don’t, here’s what came to mind:
    1) Bubble wrap that comes in a roll – from Staples, Wal*Mart, or similar
    2) Duck tape or equivalent in choice(s) of color
    3) Pipe cleaners
    1) Cut one length of bubble wrap that will fit around Spawn’s upper body, shoulders to waist, + allowing a couple inches for give. Cut holes for arms close to upper edge that are at least an inch bigger than necessary. “Paint” the torso piece with duck tape of choice, adding Superhero emblems as required. 😉
    2) Cut one length of bubble that will fit around Spawn’s behind and thighs + a few inches for give and movement. Paint it, as above.
    3) Cut two lengths of bubble wrap that will each fit around Spawn’s calve’s + a couple inches for give. Paint them as above, being certain to match stripes on the horizontal, if any.
    1) Lay the torso piece flat, painted side down. Run a strip of duck tape down one of the side (not top or bottom) edges, allowing half to overlap. Fold that taped edge toward the center of the piece, fold the untaped edge to the center, and press the untaped edge along the flap of duck tape to create a seam.
    2) Use similar method to create “shoulders” at the upper edge. Leave plenty of space to get his head through.
    3) Repeat step 1 with the behind/thighs piece.
    4) Connect the torso piece to the behind/thighs piece *on the outside* with a darker shade of duck tape. It will give the illusion of sectioning. Add that same dark shade to the bottom edge of the behind/thigh piece.
    5) Use step 1 method to assemble calf pieces. My thought is, they’ll be similar to leg warmers. Slip them on over the feet, cover the calves, then put shoes of choice on. They shouldn’t be able to slide off, but a little cinching with duck tape can ensure that.

    Whatever you choose to do, it will be just as it’s meant to be. We had little resources growing up (Dad taught, Mom stayed at home), so we just did the best we could with what we had. I credit that upbringing for the creative abilities I possess now. Peace. 🙂

  42. Pipe cleaners! For antenna! Fashion a headband and antenna toppers, if desired, with duck tape. Awesome stuff, seriously. 🙂

    • SweetSong on April 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm
    • Reply

    Ahahaha I love the duct tape comment!

  43. There were so many aspects of this post that I LOVED, from the pics of your spawn (I think it’s awesome that he refuses to wear anything other than batman or Thor) the lightsabers in the park (I sooo love Star Wars) the cotton balls soaked in something that’s probably illegal today (that one made me laugh out loud) to the fact that your mom possibly didn’t wear anything that wasn’t splattered with paint…kind of sounds like me.
    I choose to visit your blog because I’m never disappointed in what you have to say. Whether you’re teaching us or making us laugh (or both) Kristen, you never disappoint.
    Thank you so much for this glimpse into your life.
    Nerds RULE!
    Have a fantastic evening,

  44. Caterpillar? Oh no, you are missing out on a truly epic opportunity to create the BatButterflyMan. Black and grey and yellow wings on the back of existing Batman costume. It’s so awesome, it will probably be a thing at next year’s comicon. You’re welcome. 😉

  45. I never competed with all the crafty-Martha Stewart-Stay at home moms because i thought they were all full of cr*p. They probably have no life outside their children’s, are doing it to improve their low self esteem or feel the need to shove their projects in everyone’s face to make themselves feel better. When their children are older, they’ll sit at home staring at the ceiling.

    Instead of wasting time showing everyone up, I’d rather spend my free time playing with my daughters at the park, sliding down water slides with them and screaming on roller coasters. THAT they will remember more than the perfectly designed cupcakes or the artistic poster made for some class project. I’d rather spend money on fun times together than on material objects.

    My girls are 9 and 14 and all we do is laugh and make fun of all the drama filled BS that goes on. I talk to them about everything and anything. I just signed up for a Mudd Run with my older daughter and hey, THAT she will remember more than me attending some PTA meeting or volunteering all my time at the school. I’m sure they’d rather spend time with their mom laughing then have a mom ignore them and stay up all night to complete the next “I need to feel important” project that they create in their own minds.

    I’m a single mom, work full time, and have an entire house to maintain by myself. (I hate weedwacking BTW) I havent watched TV in over 4 years and spend any down time exercising, reading or writing when they are busy with their own personal hobbies.
    What’s there to feel guilty about? In the end, is your son happy? Do you have a good relationship with him? Does he laugh often? Do you show him love in other ways?
    As for the caterpillar outfit, ask him what he wants to do, involve him in looking up images on google and let him decide. 🙂

  46. Other kid’s parents did their projects?? Those lazy bastards!!

    I did all of my own and never knew any different. BUT, I’m a teensy bit crafty…not a lot, just enough to get by in Science class. We’ll see what Babykins does for her projects. But I can tell you now – WE aren’t doing them (because we don’t want her to grow up lazy). The little bean is on her own.

    1. I do not remember even my parents knowing I had a project at school. Projects and homework were on my own, but I am still accused of being lazy. Maybe they saw my Science projects and insect collection. The flowers and plant life collection for the freshman year high school Biology, I thought; I did “perty” good. Pressing flowers between newspapers with heavy books on top, I became pretty good at. I was not really planning on replying except, can we write on the Internet the “B” word. Is it not like the “N” word?

  47. I’m “That Mom” now! I’m the working mom swimming upstream in an affluent Chicago suburb. We’re the family with ONE car (an 8-year-old Subaru, not a matching pair of shiny SUV’s) that lives on the older side of town. My kids’ clothes come from Old Navy and Target, bought online because it saves time. They bring in the store-bought Valentines, if I remember to buy them before February 14. And they do their own school projects because I’m a teacher who believes that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

    • Carol Newquist on April 18, 2013 at 6:32 am
    • Reply

    As parents, from the day they’re born, every day is about letting go a little at a time. It’s amazing how many parents won’t let go, though, and that not letting go takes many forms. I’m currently reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and you want to talk about parents who, perhaps because of their own failings and trappings, adopted this philosophy. They were the epitome of letting go, and wow, has it made for a great story. I savor books like this like a fine wine, sipping them slowly and allowing their deep, rich complexity to linger and murmur. Jeannette’s novel is serving as an inspiration for my own novel, although mine isn’t strictly a memoir; it’s a combination of genres, similar to a Quentin Tarantino movie.

    I can so relate to the project thing. In fifth grade we had a project where we had to hang a sticky sheet outside and measure the pollution build-up on it versus a control sheet. Well, I had mine outside for a couple of weeks and the air was too damn clean, and there was no noticeable change, i.e. no pollution, so I made my own pollution by chucking dirt at it from afar. My sisters and friends joined in the collaborative effort to prove that our air was as dirty as expected. Our good-intentioned deception didn’t work too well. It was overwrought and the teacher, Mrs. Hand (no joke, although I loved Mrs. Hand because she was a literal flower child), called me aside and admonished me for falsifying results. I was ashamed, of course. I took it on the chin for the group, and have been ever since. Calvin was right about destiny.

  48. You got +++ faction with me, Kristen. I feel your pain, We’ve struggled with this very thing with our four kids and I do think there is value in making them at least try on their own. Not sure how you actually feel about having to endure all that in hindsight, but look how resiliant and resourceful you are now. =)

    It’s awesome that you have your priorities straight and don’t get hung up on image, but give that extra time to your kids. That’s what they want most afterall, our time and attention.

  49. I’m not a mom yet, but I aim to be like my own. She did stay at home for my brother for a short time, and I got the prize-winning costume once. I was a fantastic care bear. But then she needed to work for financial and personal reasons. So no more fancy costumes. When I was a teenager, my mom went back to school part time to get her degree to get her dream job teaching. She didn’t watch tv because she had papers to write and books to study. This was before distance education through the Internet. But ahe still made it to every soccer and hockey game, every band concert and not once did my brother and I feel like we missed out. She brought her books to read there. As long as e were on the field she watched, just not thw other kids, though it annoyed the rest of the parents. But she showed ua first hand how hard it is to follow our dreams and how worth it. That’s a lesson I won’t learn as well anywhere else. So good for you for doing that for your son. And my brother wanted to change his name to batman, and the hulk. He did grow out of it but the pictures are useful for black mail.

  50. My Mom is a quilter and used to make handmade costumes (one year I was a pumpkin, another year a spider), and she made me cloth school boxes, not to mention the two prom dresses and wedding dresses she made me, and costumes for the entire choir department for four years! I’ll never live up to that! Now, my husband is an artist and whenever a project has come up so far, he’s taken it upon himself to go above and beyond what the other parents might do. If I was insecure, I might question my role as mother. Oh wait, I have done that. But I bring home the bacon, so I think that’s pretty important…you know, feeding my kids, giving them a roof and stuff!

    Your long work day makes much more sense now, by the way. I don’t know how you do it. I tried the multi-tasking for a couple years and it totally wore me out. I’m much better if I just focus on one thing at a time, when possible, which means I don’t accomplish as much. But, I stay sane, which is always good.

  51. I am right there with you. My crafting skills are at a “null” level,. And somehow I managed to attract Martha Stewart wannabes making me feel even worse for not knowing how to turn my sewing machine on or make the perfect terrarium.
    But what I lack in talent I, like you, make up for in time spent with my kids. We do almost everything together. So much so that a few weeks ago when our tv took a death dive and I informed the kids to replace it we would have to dig into our family vacation money for the summer my oldest (who are 10 and 11) told me no. They wanted the vacation. And to my surprise, it wasn’t because of where we were going but because (and I quote) ” We want to spend time with you making more memories. The tv can wait”
    Surprisingly, moments like that make the Martha Stewart wannabes nostrils flare in jealous rage. They may have the clothes, cars and craft skills that scream “I’m a grown up” but they often lack the moments that truly matter. The ones that scream ” I am a mommy.”
    A good mommy is the one that leaves the house in dirty, wrinkled clothes with her hair undid with a happy, well taken care of child at her hip.
    As a good friend of mine would say “It’s like walking through a room of polished turds. They may be shiny and look pretty, but underneath they’re still shit”

    As to what might work to get him in the caterpillar outfit….. Maybe make a sac with plain fabric on the outside and something star wars or whatever on the inside? And afterwards, he can use it as a sleeping bag???? (I’m all about double uses here, if we’re doing it, it’s for the long haul :0)

  52. I hate any kind of school costume-related project. HATE. I can’t sew. I can’t deal with fabric or costumes. If it’s “optional”, he’ll go without, or he’ll figure out something to cobble together himself.

  53. I once had a mom chide me at length for not carving pumpkins with my children at Halloween. At that point, I thought something like: “If THAT’s what it takes to be a good mom, I’m done for. But maybe my children get an invitation from Hogwarts, then I’ll be relieved of the cooking and crafting expectations and they can return home during the summer and zap all of those overachieving, looking-down-my-nose-at-you moms into salamanders.”

    My kids seem to be turning out normal. Or at least as normal as their mom. 😉

    • Debbie on April 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm
    • Reply

    I remember my seed project. I waited until the last possible moment to work on it and then disected several kinds of fruit. I placed the ceeds in containers with all the required info. The comment that stood out read, ‘Please try drying out the seeds first.” Every seed was mouldy. My friend on the other hand, had chosen citrus (not random fruit like me), she had dried her seeds, and she had each sample neetly stored in Rx bottles!

  1. […] The Parental Paradox & Caterpillar Conundrum—How I Grew Up to Be THAT Mom by Kristen Lamb […]

  2. […] toddler attends nursery school and the school still asks ME to hand-make costumes for plays for a three-year-old. Really. Sure, let me fit that into my meetings, deadlines, blogs, books and traveling. Yet, when my […]

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