Be THAT mom

There’s a mom at our school. Almost all the moms know her. She’s THAT mom. You know, the one who does everything, and does it with style. She’s room mom for both kids, cub scout mom and Daisy troop leader. She works in the science lab, the arts program, the PTA. She dresses up in cool costumes for Halloween, organizes elaborate games for every kid at the park, and goes down the slip and slide at the water play date she sets up at her house. Always cheerful, always engaging, always attracting small children like the pied piper. In her spare time (ha ha), she teaches spinning classes, runs full-length Ironman triathlons, and runs a minimum of ten miles per day.

She’s THAT mom.

I truly appreciate her deeply, but it took me a while to get to that spot. At first I could only feel intimidated by her, envious of her energy, jealous that she seemed to do everything and with more grace than I could ever imagine. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I see that she’s gifted in particular areas–but not in everything. And I’ve watched my children, among others, sometimes drift away from her exuberance, as though she was slightly more than they could handle.

I’ve also realized that I have my own gifts too.

When I take the kids at school in the morning, I often play tag. It’s a great way to stay warm, plus I’ve got early morning energy and exercise clothes on to boot. The kids love it, and it allows me to engage not only with them but with their classmates. “You’re going to turn into THAT mom,” one friend warned me, and shortly thereafter one of the other parents said as we lined up after tag, “Thank you!” with an apologetic face that said what I had once thought: thank you for being THAT mom.

Oh no. No, no, no. What I had realized was that I already was THAT mom. I’m the mom God knew my kids needed. I will NEVER (and I rarely use that word but of this I am certain) run an Ironman. I’m not planning on teaching spinning or leading Daisies, either. But I’m good with kids, quiet and a little funny. I make awesome breads and baked goods, and I’m always up for a board or card or video game. Birthday cakes get decorated exactly and as elaborately as desired. I plan our weekends so we go out for ice cream at least once, and I’m usually eager to fill any arts and crafts whim. And on some cold mornings, I’m good for a game of tag. I’m THAT mom. The one my kids need. That’s me. And that’s every other mom out there too.

The one who warned me? She’s got the gift of art like nobody’s business, plus she’s a stellar Christian example to her kids. She also has no qualms with serving nutella for dinner or chicken nuggets on tortillas. She’s THAT mom. And the one who thanked me? She’s the mom who pulls her kids to school in the wagon every morning. Going to school is so much more fun in a wagon!

We all have our gifts, and while some seem more obvious–and enviable–than others, our kids were given to us accordingly. They need our gifts, not anyone else’s. Instead of focusing on what others have and what we lack, let’s choose to be the best mom we can, whatever that looks like. THAT mom, she’s the one you need to appreciate.

Nailing it down

Dear Second Toenail,

I understand that perhaps you are not pleased by my recent foray into running, but it’s time that you accept the situation. Which is that you are clearly unhappy and need to fall off. Building nail upon nail is not going to help. Now that you are a quarter inch thick, you bump into everything, causing even more pain. I do not need more pain. Let go, like the happily nonexistent toenail to your left. Or be purple, like the two at the end. But for God’s sake, do not build another toenail like you apparently enjoy doing. This is not an endurance contest and there will be no rewards for hanging on. I have pliers, and… okay, I am afraid to use them. But I was tough enough to run that half-marathon even with your persistently stabbing protests, so I can guarantee that your days are numbered, one way or another.

Sincerely,
Me

Clean(ish)

I finally got myself one of this Mr. Clean magic erasers. Yep. Got all sucked in by those commercials where people are wiping off all sorts of things with just water. As someone always looking for chemically-free ( but still effective) ways to clean, it sounded perfect. To good to be true really. I fully expected to be disappointed.

Well, it certainly does have magic cleaning powers because it took the paint off my walls. Really. So either I have some funky water soluble paint, or Mr. Clean’s on steroids (which, we all must admit, would not be surprising).  After one session cleaning of our not-even-very-dirty kitchen cabinets, the eraser is a pathetically wadded mess already missing several corners. But the cabinets are clean. As is that white spot on the wall (hint: our kitchen walls are not usually white). I find it hard to believe I got suckered into buying something to clean with water when I have fifty billion rags around the house that’d do the trick, and I also find it hard to believe that it could work out so bafflingly effective and shoddy at the same time. Around here, Mrs. Clean is not amused.

POOP: Parents Obsessively Overprepping (little) People

I’m part of a parenting message board–the same one responsible for the children’s literature debate–and found myself floored this morning by the following query:

“Has anyone used any books, programs or software tools to prepare for GATE (Gifted and Talented Education)?”

If you’re not familiar with GATE, it’s the program in California public schools that separates out the high-achieving and under-achieving kids and puts them in higher level classes. Around 3rd grade you take the test, if your parents so desire, which should assess your given IQ and tell educators whether you belong in the class.

I’m not sure what bothers me more: that children who are not necessarily at that level will be “snuck” into those classes, or the fact that their parents are willing to push them into preparing for a test at the tender age of eight–a test that, if it really does test your IQ, shouldn’t require any prep at all.

Both B and I were in GATE, and I guess my general assumption is that our kids will be too, but I only want them there if that’s what’s best for them, if that’s where they fit and could get the education they need/deserve. The thought of parents prepping kids for this test the way an adult boosts their score on the GRE is absolutely nauseating. Sorry to all the parents out there who might feel differently. I understand that you want your kid in the best class–I think most parents want the best for their children–and that some kids test more poorly than others (although I think prepping for test taking is different than prepping for a test). Seriously: when did we start treating our kids like little adults? I can remember taking that test, thinking that it was kind of strange and unfamiliar in a “boy, aren’t grown-ups weird?” sort of way. I didn’t really know what I was going in for and I didn’t care after I left. My mom and I went somewhere fun–somewhere for kids–and that was that. It makes me sad to think of some poor kid cramming for the test, stressing out about it, then sitting around waiting for the score with their overobsessive parent. It’s like taking the SAT nine years early. It’s bad enough when you finally get to that point. Do you really have to treat your kids to that any earlier?

Okay, sorry. It’s really too early for soapbox ranting. Feel free to read me the riot act on how I’m overreacting and how test prep is never a bad thing and how much that test could affect a kid’s education. I know. Maybe I’ll see the point when I’m a little less angry. Right now, I’m ready to take my kids into the playroom and let them be kids.

You’re kidding, right?

All those books published in 2009, all those many many books, and you at Publisher’s Weekly produce a top ten list comprised entirely of male authors. I’m not even touching the equally bothersome point that they’re also white. Seriously? Seriously? Let’s just be logical: fifty percent of the population is female. Dude, in case you’re as bad at math as you are at reading, that’s half. If you can’t give up five, then three, or two, or even one. You’re telling me that no woman wrote a book you consider a top tier read? Seriously???

As an English Literature major, I’m familiar with the traditionally white male domination of the literary canon. But I like to think that we’re moving past that, that we’re realizing that good literature comes in many forms, and that only through the wide and eclectic breadth of authors can it fully touch the wide and eclectic world population. PWs list represents a rebuttal to the promise of a new book-view.

I have a son and I have a daughter, and I am a writer. I would like to tell them both that the world is fair, that if they choose to follow in my footsteps the doors will be open on both sides, the paths equally rocky and trying. And I will tell them that, because having that hope is sometimes what it takes to keep moving forward, word by word and page by page. But in the end, I realize that in more ways than I know, life is not fair. Thanks, PW. I secretly hope that the angel watching over you is a big black woman, and that she’s as pissed as I am.

Are you pissed too? Then check out She Writes. They’re calling for action, and although the “day” is nearly over, don’t let that stop you. Buy a book by a woman–I just bought Beth Moore’s Breaking Free to help me build my faith, but I’ve also got Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris on my bedside table. Hey, woman have a lot of different sides, you know. Post something on your blog, or Facebook, or your front door. Take a stand for women writers, and for the little women who are following in our footsteps.