Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Pat's, etc.

My sister sent me this link to a funny blog post about bringing the holidays down a notch, and I couldn't agree more.  Really, you should read it if you have a sec. 

I'm especially on board with the author's frustration with the leprechaun mythology being dispensed at school.  At least when it comes to Santa, being that our kids attend Christian based schools, we're all on the same page about a man in a red suit coming down a chimney with presents to celebrate Jesus's birthday.  Makes perfect sense.  But last week I had Georgia coming home telling me that leprechauns are as big as your thumb, and June reporting that her class heard leprechauns stomping around upstairs only to return to their classroom to find pots of gold.  I could see the puzzled look on Georgia's face while June showed off her rather fake looking gold.  And I am supposed to reconcile all of these discrepancies as the arbiter of leprechaun facts?

By the way, I'm sorry if my mentioning "Pi Day" pressured anyone into celebrating yet another holiday.  (I'm kidding; it couldn't possibly have, right?)  I only heard of it myself for the first time last week.

I keep seeing all this fuss on the Internet about "100 Day" and am thanking my lucky stars that neither of our kids' schools (so far) make a thing out of that.  

Can we talk Valentine's for a minute?  The author describes it as "the new Halloween," and I think that's spot on.  I'm not here to pooh pooh Valentine's Day, because first of all, the kids love it, and it's fun to witness their joy.  But I think that's kind of the point - we as a family do very little to celebrate, and the kids *still* love it.  Love is all you need.  Okay, and maybe a *little* chocolate.  ; )

I have learned to grin and bear it but just do not understand how so many of the other parents aren't doing the math.  When you send a kid off to school with goodie bags as their Valentine thing to pass out, and each goodie bag contains 3-4 pieces of candy (or plastic trinkets), and there are anywhere from 13 (June's class) to 33 (Georgia's class (spread over different days)) children, then that equals....let's see...carry the nine...anywhere from 39 to 132 pieces of candy or trinkets!  I may be a sugar buster when it comes to my children, but no three year old needs 39 pieces of candy in my book, not even spread over a week.  Which is why I do two things:  (1) Take advantage of their youth and make a ton of this stuff disappear to the "circular file" overnight, and (2) Become a free rider and send my children off to school with only a sticker (yep, like, a single sticker) as their "treat" to pass out.  I've just seen how much of this stuff ends up in the trash, and seen how little my kids have any awareness of "who gave out what", to feel like it's worthwhile to do more.  I know that as they get older that will likely change, and I'll probably play along to help them fit in in this case, but for now, they are perfectly happy with this arrangement.  In fact, Georgia did not seem to care, while preparing the store-bought Barbie princess charm school Valentines that she picked out, when I told her that she had inadvertently ripped each one in half and stuck the stickers on permanently, rather than leaving them on the backing for her friends to enjoy.

My friend Sarah wrote a really interesting blog post about the pervasiveness of "cute" in our culture these days, something that I hadn't really considered but found very thought provoking.  (You should check that one out, too, if you have a sec!  See, I'm here to fulfill your pleasure reading needs.) Whether it's overblown holidays or just overdone cuteness in general, I think the overarching idea is that when special things become everyday, they cease to be special and are instead expected and ordinary.  Or you can look at it from the opposite angle:  ordinary, everyday days are crucial to making special occasions and special treats actually feel special.  Sometimes it feels like half my job as a parent is depriving my children of things (e.g,. toys offered everywhere, an abundance of sweets everyday, and screens galore (TVs, phones, iPads)), (all of which are heavily marketed toward them and put in our faces everywhere we go), in the hopes that they will not get accustomed to such a heightened level of stimulation that their senses become dulled, leaving them turning to cocaine for entertainment by the time they are out of junior high.  I'm exaggerating I guess, but only a little.  All I'm saying is that it feels that way sometimes.  I mean, I can't buy into the parenting philosophy of "Say 'yes' whenever possible!" to maximize long term happiness for all involved, but with the amount of crap being thrown our way daily, being a "no" woman can be exhausting.  And totally un-fun. 

But back to the holiday celebration thing...(sorry if this is the most disjointed thing ever written, I don't really have time to edit and am just going with it)... How do you make room for the people (both adults and their children) who actually have fun making those Pinterest worthy homemade Valentines, without letting it slowly become the standard that all other families are trying to meet (and often times feel like failures for falling short of)?  I mean, Lord knows our family went all out with our coordinated Halloween costumes.  And when I am in the mood, I have been known to enjoy taking on projects like making patriotic Fourth of July desserts, having the kids paint their own Christmas wrapping paper, or throwing themed birthday parties.  The key phrase there is "when I am in the mood."  Because one person's simplicity or frugality can be another person's pain in the rear!

I don't know.  There is no question that on a societal level, all of these celebrations and holidays just keep getting ratcheted up, up and away, and I think we've reached or surpassed the "too much of a good thing" point.  On a personal level, I try to go all out when I feel like it, and phone it in when I feel like it, and not feel bad about it either way.  Easier said than done, but at least a reasonable goal.

So, anyhoo.....St. Patrick's Day.  We had a festive one.  We all wore green.  We went to Tommy Nevin's Pub to watch our niece's/cousin's Irish dancing troupe.  Our children were too timid to join in the dancing with the crowd but were more than happy to demonstrate their footwork at home afterwards.  Can you even believe they've never had lessons?  ; )


Georgia Irish dancing from Kate on Vimeo.

June Irish dancing from Kate on Vimeo.

P.S.  This song will always make me think of Steph the Nanny.  It was the closest thing we had on hand to accompany our tiny dancers. 
P.P.S.  Doesn't that look like the kitchen of someone who had a home showing the next day? Amazing the difference a day can make.  It truly was flawlessly clean, no joke.

[ETA:  The excerpt below is my favorite paragraph from the original linked post.  The "ordinary" ain't easy!  Especially for this lady, who by my standards is knocking it out of the park.  Everyone bathed (relatively recently?), dressed (for part of the day? maybe?) and fed = my current definition of success.]
I don’t like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday overkill. I’m overwhelmed enough as it is. Today I gave all of my kids a bath. We read with each of them for the recommended 20 minutes. We reviewed our Math Facts. We practiced guitar. We sat together at the table and ate a meal that was NOT procured at a drive-thru.  We played outside. Most days, I’m struggling to achieve all these things. I can’t have these haphazard, once-monthly overblown holidays take over my life.  


Anonymous said...

ah - there it is. I think you should also add the labels "holidays" and "young kids". Somehow I am hopefully that the once-a-month blow out holidays are a function of "young kids". Kindergarten = 100 days = BIG DEAL. I'm hoping that by 6th grade the kids are like, "whatever teacher, there are still 80 more!"

so I agree with the author - the Tier 2 holidays are getting too big, and weird new ones are being added (Dr Seuss Birthday? Pi Day?) Is that a function of our politically correct culture as well? If everyone can't do Christmas and Easter, maybe they need some non-secular days to celebrate at school? But I'm hopefully that soon birthday parties will start getting smaller...... and the goody bags will disappear as well....... it can't go on forever!

Susan said...

Okay, I didn't realize how crazy the candy thing had gotten until one day last week. A lady whose blog I read posted that she had told her son she would give him a quarter for every piece of candy he brought home from school, rather than ate. He came home the next day with EIGHT pieces of candy!! They were all rewards he received throughout the day. I had no idea and think if kids are getting 8 pieces a day, it fails to be a reward anymore!

Stephanie said...

Ah I love it! I remember you guys playing it when I walked in after I got back from our honeymoon :) So how about that dinner?

Maggie said...


Let me share another link I appreciated recently. Along the lines of, let's everyone just give ourselves a break :-) Not exactly the same topic, and you may not agree with all of it, but I think it helped me.

Anonymous said...

From Tom T. :
True confessions - I didn't read your whole post, some kind of rant against holidays which is probably valid for parents. But I did watch those darling videos!! LOVED THEM.

Ann said...

First, let me say I think I'd rather be having this discussion with a drink in my hand over pizza at Otto. So why don't you and Maggie and Susan just come back to NYC and we'll do that! Now...I must also admit that coming from the woman who quite literally knocked Halloween on its ass with those amazing Muppets themed family costumes AND has some Hallmark-worthy photos of her adorable kids WITH props on each Groundhogs Day, I was a bit skeptical. But I totally agree. Things need to chill. And you did offer the disclaimer that this is really about the holidays you enjoy doing up. I think that part of the issue is the internet and the access to so much media and social media at that, that tells us that everyone else is doing something amazing. Of course, we all want to be doing it too.

Fortunately, I must live in the one neighborhood in the one city where I think most of these holidays are still pretty toned down. No leprechaun talk at school. No one I know has an elf on the shelf. So maybe I'm just getting off easy, but V-Day was a sheet of stickers to distribute and Elisa came out with a handful of candy. Totally doable. But I know it might all be different in a few years, just as I plan to be back at work and busy with a million other things. So who knows. I liked Maggie's link and I think the bottom line is we need to give ourselves more credit and permission to do our best. That's got to be good enough. Even if it's not always pin-able.

Anonymous said...

I actually feel a little mom-guilt after reading your post. I am probably too liberal with TV/iPads, candy, and consumerism but who cares? My kids play outside, they are funny and smart, and they have creativity galore. As much as we are bombarded with sugar and "junk," it ruffles my feathers just as much to hear a mom on her high horse talking about how she won't let her kids have candy or watch TV. As a counselor who works with teenagers, I can give you many examples of how this backfires just as much as giving them free reign of those things. I know your intent wasn't to make anyone feel guilty for celebrating made-up holidays or for eating candy, but I do think it kind of sucks to hear parents being judgy of parents who DO allow those things in greater abundance than you. Just my two cents. That said, I enjoy your blog. Just keep in mind that it comes across as a little righteous when you talk about sending a sticker instead of candy, etc. Chill!

Kate said...

Aw, shoot. The last thing I want to become is a purveyor of the dreaded mom-guilt! I agree with what you're saying about the dangers of being too restrictive, and to be clear, our girls do watch TV and eat candy and other treats like cupcakes, cookies, etc. (And Waylon will too, soon. He's already weaseled his way into more treats at age 19 months as a third child than his sisters ever did!) I certainly didn't mean to sound righteous about sending a sticker - others might see me as cheap or lazy for doing that, and I just wanted to explain why I thought it made sense. I am, after all, friends with many of the other parents who sent in much more, so I don't mean to come across as if I'm up on my high horse looking down on people. I'm thankful for their generosity at base, but like I said in the original post, I just wish some would think through how much this all adds up to and scale it back a little.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will try to take your advice to chill, and I do mean that sincerely!

As for judgment, ugh, it sucks, doesn't it? I really don't want to be judgmental of others. I don't liked to be judged much, either. I struggle with how to write or talk about the choices we're making for our own family without coming across as being judgmental of anyone who does things differently, even though that is not my intent, not to mention that everyone's personal circumstances are different. I think that in life and in writing, it's sometimes hard to draw the line between having an opinion on a matter, and coming across as judgmental of others, if that makes any sense? It's something I've been pondering, anyway.

Anonymous said...

And now I wish I hadn't even written a comment. It obviously was my own mom insecurity talking. You seem to be a super mom...keep doing what you're doing! So sorry my own "stuff" made me judge YOU! :(

Kate said...

Hugs, Anonymous. : ) Don't regret it; it's all good. A little dose of introspection is probably really good for me!

jessica said...

@Susan: candy rewards from school? Ugh. I still have teachers and counselors who do this even though it is actually against our state licensing standards to use food as a reward...creating so many potential issues here. Parents-totally your right to use a treat as a reward/bribe but anyone else-no!