Everyone's seen the blog post comparing lunches in the 70s and lunches today. I was tagged or forwarded that post over a dozen times. For those who haven't seen it, it compares the crazy bento lunches parents today make vs the ol' PB&J we all used to have in our little metal lunch boxes, as well as a big hoopla made for 1st day of school and every minor achievement of today's youth. I was tagged or emailed quite a few of those bento lunches and crazy shaped pancakes this week,too, which my friends made. I applauded all of you, as I sat cutting little hearts out of carrots. Still others sent me awesome artwork you can make with the painted hand and footprints of the little ones. I don't know if I was proud or embarrassed that I had done most of them with my little guy when he was younger, and even yearn to do it now.
I know some posted because it made them think of me, and my crazy antics. Some posted because they knew I would be applauding the effort. Some posted knowing I'd sincerely appreciate an influx of ideas, because seriously… I'm getting tapped out here! Some, I know are left shaking their head every time I post a scene from The Lorax made completely out of food or the Mona Lisa I framed and hung that Shaye painted (under the direction of Spark! Art teacher extraordinaire, Fabiola Hansenhttp://sparkec.net/classesevents/art-program/).
All this led to me to think about the impression I give out by all this. Is it that I'm an over indulgent mom? (At times, I admit, but anyone who spent more than 4 hours with us can see I ask a lot of him). Is it that I'm wildly creative? (Though I admit to some creative juices, many of my creations pay homage to those who actually created the ideas and posted on Pinterest.). Am I seeking validation, praise or mom of the year awards…. hardly. Am I making others feel less of a "good mom" or inadequate? (Lord, I hope not, but I have been told by good friends that they have felt this way, and for that I am truly sorry).
Many lessons have come my way growing older, and being among the "older" parents with kids as young as mine. One of the lessons is, thankfully, I've learned I don't need validation from others. My efforts, as a parent and a person, are driven by trying to be the best I can be, and challenge myself to keep learning and improving. My motivation isn't for the feedback or the "likes", because for every one, I know there is someone else thinking I'm out of my gourd. My reasons are many, first and foremost is my miracle; this 7 ¾ year old little man who has taught me so much. This unexpected gift, to a woman who, because of life choices as well as a body that was left with a single, scarred up ovary, never thought she'd experience having children of her own. That carved watermelon in the shape of the "Death Star" is for him, and represents thanks. The knowledge that life is so precious, and can be gone in a moment, that started with a baby born then whisked to the NICU not breathing, to then watch him enduring painful treatments and 5 surgeries before his little body turned 5. That tooth fairy door, back to school and elf shenanigans are for him, and represents humility. The circumstances of his allergies that necessitate a little creative culinary presentation for him to try new foods he isn't allergic to. The angry birds and batman lunches are for him, and represents perseverance. The acceptance that, while I am thankful for the opportunity I was given by having brain surgery, I have a lot of long term or short term memory deficits that are compounded by age. I want to give cherished childhood memories, because unlike other parents, he's going to have to remind me of many of these. And so photographing and sharing them is a way I capture tomorrow's memories today. So all the pictures and posts I do are for him, and our family, and me to help me preserve some of these memories. And represents a profound gratitude for all the gifts I have been given, and all the people who are helping to mold my boy.
I've also learned that comparing ourselves to others rarely leads to positive feelings or better life choices. And though, if I'm going to be honest, I can be a fairly judgmental person, parenting, except in cases of abuse or neglect, are just one of those things that I do not judge others. Because as great and wonderful a mom as I try to be, I know every other parent out there is making choices based on THEIR life circumstances, situation, experiences and budgets, just expressed in other ways. Some do it by driving 2 hours each way, on a regular basis, to get their kids to a better doctor. Some do it by working when they'd rather stay home so they can afford piano and dance lessons. Some do it by staying home when they'd rather work because their child has an illness or disability that requires more attention. Some do it by taking a paycut and moving because they know it will give them more quality time with their child and family. Some do it by choosing homeschooling (and/or partnering with Spark! Creative Community School) because they feel it will offer their child a better educational experience. Some do it merely by getting up in the morning when they'd rather go to bed, or will stay home instead of going out to watch Frozen yet ANOTHER time. It's the single parent, who when he has an opportunity to go out and use a babysitter, decides to take his guy to Universal to get some good "boy time" in. And still others are amazing "parents", even though they do not have children themselves. They are the aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters and friends who help us or them when we need it (and even when we don't). It's the ones who show up, who call, who do the little things that leave impressions on our children that help mold them to grow up to be caring, competent citizens who make a difference.
And so to all of you, I say thanks for inspiration. Thanks for all you do. Thanks for the sacrifices you make. Thanks for the parent, aunt, uncle, friend you are. Have confidence in the choices you make, because know they are all out of love. And if your little one is one of our Sparkmakers, I say thanks for letting us tag along in your journey.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to carve go a watermelon.
Kat Ventura is a Master’s prepared social worker who specializes in children and families. She currently serves as CCO and Franchise Director of Spark! Worldwide, the Franchising arm of Spark Family Enrichment Center. To find out more about Spark! and their Franchising opportunities at low start up costs, please go to http://sparkec.net/franchise/ . “Build a business by Making a Difference”™ with Spark! Family Enrichment.