|From Disney Family Fun website: Way cooler than my dinosaur valentines.|
I sent Finny to school today with lame valentines. I know they were lame because he came home with a bag full of valentines and all the other ones were way cooler than his. Jessica’s mom gave out Frisch’s Big Boy certificates, April’s mom gave a Frisch’s Big Boy certificate and a lollipop, Jacob’s mom gave out Fun Dip, Adam’s mom gave out a sucker and a sticker, Megan’s mom gave out little toys, and Frank’s mom, the cutest of them all, took a picture of Frank holding a piece of PVC, and then she stuck a Blow-Pop inside so it looks like he’s holding a giant sucker. Pretty Awesome.
Finny’s mom just sent teeny little cards with dinosaurs on them that say clever valentine dinosaur things like “You’re Tops!” next to the picture of the Triceratops. Yesterday, we thought they were so cool because they are holograms and if you tilt them, they turn into dinosaur skeletons. Finny carried them all around the house organizing and re-organizing them and showing me and Charlie and Daddy their skeletons. Pretty cool. Until today…today compared to all the other valentines, they looked like Finny’s mom cheaped out in the valentine department. What’s the matter, Finny’s Mom? I imagined all the other moms thinking when they got home to look through the Valentine bags, Don’t have time to be a little creative? Couldn’t attach a Rolo or something? Couldn’t muster up some homemade stationery and a couple of Hot Wheels?
And then I started kicking myself. Not for buying lame valentines. But for caring whether or not my three-year-old’s valentines were lame. I’m such a cave woman. So unevolved. So far from Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda. When I’ve seen these women interviewed in their “older” age, they seem to exude humor, charm, and confidence, and a sort of peace about who they are at this point in their lives. They always talk about this road they’ve been on to learn to love themselves, and how these years, these older years in their fifties, sixties, seventies are the best ones yet. They talk about how insecure they were in their twenties and thirties and how they were always worried about what other people thought about them. But now, it’s all behind them. They have finally, finally accepted themselves. I, on the other hand, am still a cave woman.
A friend told me recently that she’s no longer on Facebook. She closed her account. GASP! Why? Her answer: Because it was making me unhappy. Because I was constantly comparing myself to others and wondering why I wasn’t doing all the cool things other people seem to be doing.
Another friend told me that she just started staying home more with her kids because she too found that she was getting stressed and unhappy when she discovered that she was constantly comparing herself to other moms and comparing her kids to other kids. So she’s staying home to just be with her family and just do things as she wants to do them without wondering all the time whether or not she’s doing it right.
Hmm, I thought, how wise. And then…I wish I could be wise like that.
On the other hand, you can’t totally shut out the outside world and what the others lurking out there may or may not think about you. This is what happens when you leave your home—you interact with other human beings and they teach you things about yourself. Sometimes they teach you how shallow you are—that lady has no business wearing a top that tight. They teach you how impatient you are—Finny, if you can’t share the trains with the other kids at the library, we’re leaving. Okay, that’s it. We’re leaving. And they teach you some awesome ideas about how to amp up your valentines for next year—next year, we’re going sucker and homemade pencil holder AND free hot chocolates from Starbucks—beat that, Frank’s mom! PVC? Anyone can get their kid to hold PVC and put a sucker in it! (So awesome, Frank’s mom. Can I steal it?)
I’m not gonna keep Finny home from school to avoid comparing him or myself with others. I think pre-school is a neat and important experience for him. And I’m not a homeschooler (clearly this kid would never learn how to make a proper valentine). But, I’m finding that school is not just going to be a learning experience for Finny. It’s still full of lessons for me too.
Ever since Finny started pre-school this year, I’ve wondered, How’s he doing in there? What do the teachers think? How does he compare to the other kids? I find myself anxious to receive reports about him, wanting to hear that he’s normal, that he fits in, and at the same time wanting to hear that he’s exceptional too. Whatever you’re doing at home, Mrs. V, you just keep on doing it, Finny is a tiny genious. I mean just look at the placement of that googly eye on the clothespin butterfly. Well, we’ve just never seen anything like that. Gifted.
But that’s not what Miss S. told me when she pulled me into the classroom a few weeks ago to talk. She told me Finny was not listening to her and that he’s making funny faces during circle time when he should be paying attention.
This wasn’t exactly shocking information. Lord knows I’ve got sticker charts, and piggy banks and bags of lollipops all perched and ready to bribe Finny into listening to and cooperating with me. But somehow hearing it from someone else was the tiniest bit disconcerting. I mean weren’t the other kids having a hard time listening too? Uh-oh, do I allow too much silliness in our house? Will I mess up his ability to sit still and pay attention?
So, I called my sixty-two-year-old mother, who reminded me that everyone, including Finny, has their days. It was like Jane Fonda was right there in the room with me—sans leotard.
One of my very favorite quotes of all time is from the Desiderata: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
And so it is with valentines and parenting and most other things in life. I tell this to myself as I try to evolve into the content, self-accepting human being I yearn to be.
And then in the next breath, I think, Those lollipops weren’t even organic or sugar- free.
Still on the road. Still have a ways to go. Still trying to see the sunlight through the deep, dark mouth of the cave.