Yesterday, a friend shared When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose (great article, worth the read) and it struck a chord with me.
Fortunately, I have never experienced the nauseating displeasure of being on a committee with the type of parents Dr. Monroe describes. Granted, I've never served on a planning committee in person, (because something about dragging all my little people with me to those meetings sounds like punishment to me, and all the others in the room) but have always been happy to serve through emails and sending items in my kids' backpacks on party day. While I've never been asked to send in a mousse cake for a Valentine's Day party, I have seen sign up sheets that included items young children cannot possibly appreciate, rich or poor. And while I have never had another mom make such rude and obvious comments to my face, I have had plenty of passive-aggressive comments made in the form of a back-handed compliment... "I wish I could be more like you, and just not CARE about what my kids bring in for the party/wear in public/which extracurricular activities they participate in." The thing is, I DO CARE about what I feel is most important on their journey to becoming successful, KIND and respectful adults, who the rest of the world has to live with. But you're right, I couldn't care less if they are the only ones in their class to pass out a store-bought Valentine with NO candy attached (GASP!), if they are the only kids wearing Garanimals instead of Gap, (I'm usually just happy they all are indeed wearing clothes) and I seriously doubt making the rule of only one extracurricular activity per season, and it being an activity that he selected for himself, is going to mean he won't go to college (if he even chooses to go).
Let me ask you something... How fun and exciting was it as a kid to know on Valentine's Day, we were going to pass out our own cute paper valentines, the ones WE selected at the store, the ones WE chose that showed our own personalities and interests that year, the ones WE wrote our classmates' names on, then got to "deliver" into the shoe boxes WE decorated OURSELVES, with paper doilies and heart stickers. And to go along with the excitement of our sweet and silly valentines was usually a small cup of red Kool-aide and a plain, yet delicious, (usually baked from a box mix by a classmate's mom) cupcake, or maybe something just as simple as an Oreo cookie. And if you were really lucky, Ruffles potato chips and dip were served as well. That was it. No catered nugget trays, no homemade cinnamon rolls, no Pinterest-inspired desserts covered in fondant icing that took 12 hours to bake, decorate and set over night, all while it took the children all of six seconds to inhale or toss in the trash can, because let's face it, fondant doesn't taste good, no matter how cute it looks. Children (at least the ones I've had the honor of loving) don't really care about the custom designed valentines that took their mothers three hours to assemble. I'm not bashing those of you who do it. I'm just gently trying to tell you, those adorable Valentines you slaved over still end up in the trash a few days after Valentine's Day, right next to the Transformer and Strawberry Shortcake ones.
Our generation of parents has gone overboard with the elaborate themed class parties, customized goodie bags, and spreads we are serving. I have seen sign up sheets that include as much as 8-10 food and drink items. My children have come home with as many as 12 goodie bags from other children, filled with small toys and candy. I've done my own personal study on this subject, and made sure to always ask my children and their friends later what their favorite thing about the party was that day. Never, not once, did any of them respond anything about the food, decorations, or gift bags that were given. Always, they commented on the fun story the teacher read, game they got to play, or neat music played during the party. I have even made it a point to ask them directly about how yummy those foods must have been and pointed out how cool a certain Valentine looked, and almost always gotten a shrug and a nod. My point is... It's not the STUFF we're giving our children that matters. It's the EXPERIENCES in which we should be more intentional and focus on making great.
We have got to relax as parents. We are creating a whole generation of children who have much too high expectations, and not enough insight into the real world in which they will be forced to live once they move out from under our helicopter propellers. It shouldn't be about what item you send in for the class party. Or how your children are dressed. Or even if they're already taking French horn lessons, tae kwon do, and ballet at the age of four.
I don't believe Pinterest itself is the problem. It's what it can create with in us that is the problem. And it's those feelings of inadequacy and the need to compete and "one up" each other that is harming the generation of children we are raising. Instead of stressing over the perfect class party, how about volunteering to find a fun book that relates to the holiday instead, and read it to the class that day, or an easy game that would include the whole class, which would help to entertain the kids and allow the teacher a quick break as well.
We need to think more about the experience being provided and the time spent WITH the children, not just the time spent ON them. Children are like a sponge. They learn so much more by what they witness in their own lives, than they do by what we tell them. Our kids need to witness our acts of love, to see us with their own innocent eyes, serving in the community, and it can start with something as simple as loving on ALL the children in the class, especially those whose parents couldn't attend the party. More than our children need beautifully crafted sweets and custom goodie bags, they need to be loved and engaged.
Love is simple.