My most profound memories stand out as moments of extreme joy or pain. Many of the most joyous ones happened during celebrations when I embraced my family’s love, received gifts, ate favorite foods, dressed in new clothes, and felt perfectly carefree without school or other obligations.
But that was when I was young and sat on the fence as to whether unicorns are actually real. As a mom, I started to consider celebrations a chore. They are endless: birthdays (including the dogs), Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Halloween, Easter, and Valentines Day are the headliners. Then there are graduation ceremonies starting with pre-school, piano recital parties and all those Monday holidays too numerous to list. So things can get a little out of control.
It’s the end of April and I’m planning three kids’ birthday parties, an eighth grade graduation, and the family summer vacation. This is all in addition to the ‘normal routine’.
I put too much emphasis on creating perfect celebration events. As a mom of four, I feel like I own the traditions and should create memories to last a lifetime. But inevitably, a thousand issues push their way onto my perfect planning. I’ve had meltdowns at my kids’ carefully orchestrated and expensive birthday parties. One time an angry clown showed up and scared my son; to this day we avoid clowns. Or when my daughter’s best friend ignored her during her party or yet another time when the dog took a big bite out of the Nemo birthday cake.
Then there are vacations, which are supposed to be times of perfect familial bliss. We’ve spent a lot of money and I’ve put a lot of time and energy into planning and creating the appropriate atmosphere of excitement. Then I yelled at my kids at the happiest place on earth, yes Disney. And at least one child has packed dreadfully wrong every time. One time my son took all his clothes out of the suitcase and packed only Halloween costumes for a beach vacation. We never all have the right bathing suits, and, sunscreen leaks in the suitcase are a common occurrence. When we ski during the holiday season, there is always someone who has no pants or forgot covered shoes.
I can mess up any holiday! I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and the oven broke two hours into cooking the turkey. So we ate take-out Chinese food (and it was delicious). Now we eat a fine meal at an upscale hotel in Kauai every year. I know I’m in a good mood when all my kids resemble glasses of champagne. And then someone actually serves me one. I look at my husband and kids and feel festive and happy. Even when the kids eat the dessert first, order French fries off the menu, and the birds swoop in and eat food off our plates.
So now, in April, I take a deep breath and remember that it’s who’s sitting next to me that make it a celebration. It really doesn’t take a lot to have fun. I know what kind of cake my kids like by now. I can handle any birthday party with one Costco run. And iTunes cards double as a birthday gift or party favor.
I remind myself to celebrate smaller things; celebrate good moments. I pick up my son and he tells me he got a great grade in Spanish. “You got an A on your homework? Well that is worth celebrating!” I half yell in an inappropriately cheerful voice. He looks at me with raised eyebrows and asks if I’m okay. Then I pick up my little girl and she’s had a tough day. People on her group project are not getting along and someone called her small.
I put on my pretend birthday party hat. There is something worth celebrating every day. Life is not easy for anyone, adult or child. Kids have big schedules. They have to work through adversity at school, deal with insensitive teachers and coaches. Strive to establish their identity. I want to keep the atmosphere light and happy. My little girl loves an iced tea and a chocolate croissant from Starbucks. It’s all it takes to have her light up and feel completely happy. Someday, I’m going to kill for the moments when the price of a smile was an iced tea.
I want to celebrate the journey and all the accomplishments, big and small, along the way. After all this practicing of celebrating the small stuff, I’ll be a whiz at the big celebrations. My little girl says, “Mom, all you need is wrapping paper and cupcakes.” I ask her, “For the summer vacation or birthday party?” She smiles and says, “Both. I always forget my bathing suit anyways so I can wear wrapping paper. That would be funny.”
She’s right. It would be funny and we would have another entry for our family blooper reel of celebrations.
This post was originally posted at oncekids.blogspot.com on 5/2/2016.
Eileen is an active educator and blogger writing articles about her passions – parenting, diversity and technology, for major online and print media. She is the winner of multiple Mom’s Choice Awards® for her children’s books. Click here to learn more about Eileen’s award-winning books. Eileen blogs regularly on the OnceKids blog.