Special

October 20th, 2010 · 15 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

When Phoebe first started pre-school I started a ritual. I’d pick her up after school every Friday (my day off from work) and take her and Abby to lunch at our local diner. Every time I’d walk into the classroom the teacher would say the same thing: “Phoebe! Look who’s here! It’s mommy!” I should note that this was about six or seven years ago, during the golden era of the Working Mother Manifesto — I was probably reading I Don’t Know How She Does it with my morning coffee and falling asleep with Perfect Madness splayed across my chest. So the way the teacher’s greeting registered in my overly sensitive ears was more like this: “Well I’ll be! Look who decided to show up today!? It’s your Mommy, Phoebe! Can you believe it?” Had I been a little less self-involved it might not have taken me four months to notice that she greeted all the parents with the exact same line.

But that was four months after the Friday Phoebe said to me in between bites of her diner grilled cheese,”Mom, I love Fridays. They feel more special to me than other days.”

“I know what you mean,” I told her. “I feel the same way.” Then I ate a fry and my heart began its rapid descent to dark, paranoid places. Hold it a second. Why exactly does she think Friday is so special? Cause I’m home? Cause we’re eating lunch together? Since when is Mom’s presence considered a special occasion? Is this bad? Is our diner ritual calling even more attention to the fact that I’m abandoning her the other four days of the week? What am I setting myself up for here?

And that was it for our ritual. From that point on — or at least until I matured a bit — the goal for Friday was to make it as routine as every other weekday. Lunch at home. Nap. Maybe a playdate. Let’s keep “special” where it belongs — on holidays, anniversaries, birthdays.

Birthdays. Maybe this is why in our house they are now more appropriately described as birthweeks. Because after the annual monogrammed pancake ritual (above), the classroom party, the “Pick a Country, Any Country” dinner ritual, the party for their friends, the party with their grandparents, and the sleepover with cousins after the party, we’ve logged some serious hours celebrating. So this week, since Abby is turning 7, you’ll be reading about the various ways I like to overcompensate for my maternal shortcomings make a bonafide special day…special. And then, I promise you, we’ll be right back to the everyday routine.

Monogrammed Birthday Pancakes

Fry up a nice stack of pancakes using your favorite recipe or mix. (We use a mix of Trader Joe’s buttermilk and Trader Joe’s Multi-Grain.) Monogram the top one with squeezable icing and decorate with appropriate number of candles. Note: you should probably not do this with piping hot pancakes because it might cause the candle bottoms to melt a bit into the top cake. If this does happen, just surgically remove the affected areas.

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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Trish O // Oct 20, 2010 at 11:06 am

    too cute. I also worry that about making things special or not…but from the other side. I have always been a stay at home mom. They see me ALL OF THE TIME. So I think that mom is never special. Our time together is just the same old thing all the time. Who remembers that when they are 40. No, they remember the special times with parents. So I really have my own issues. I try to force special into the everyday. But the pancakes great. My oldest son’s birthday is the day after christmas. I always try to make it special (there I go again) from Christmas but we are also on the road to g-ma’s that day. This will work veyr well. Thank you for the great ideas…but also for putting the big issues out there. I am so glad to know I am not alone.

  • 2 Amanda // Oct 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I can relate so well to your reading into simple comments like the preschool teacher or in my case, another mom on the playground. Because Mon-Thurs my mother in law does the pick ups and drop offs at school (yes, she is a saint) and on my Fridays off I get to do all that fun stuff. When I went to pick up my son at school on Friday afternoon a mother said to me “Aw! Where is Granny today?” Being self centered I took that to mean “Aw! Where is the person that cares more about your son than you do?” I started to cry when I got in the car, big heaving sobs of self loathing. Of course that isn’t what she meant, but boy did I give myself a flogging for it.

    Regarding birthday rituals, I stole mine from a book. Years ago when the book “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” was all the rage, I promised myself that when I had kids I’d do the birthday ritual that Vivienne did for her children (note to all: Vivi was NOT Mother of the Year). She would bake a separate smaller cake to give to the birthday child first thing in the morning and it was meant to be this intimate moment between mom and child before everyone else woke up. So I finally got around to doing it last year and I think I scared my son to death by shoving a lit cake in his face while he was still sleeping, but he got the message. Cake for breakfast? He still talks about it.

  • 3 Jen // Oct 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    i think it’s kind of nice that you made your one day off with the kids special. i have a similar schedule now with my 4-year old – he goes to preschool a few hours on mon mornings and i’m off from work. no special lunch routine or anything, but we usually try to do something fun in the afternoon.

    sometimes i feel guilty about being away from him so much of the week (he’s at daycare 4 full days a week and to be honest it’s really my choice to work). but there are plenty of kids out there whose parents work 5 days a week (or more), some by choice and some not, and those kids all do just fine. there’s even some new research out there that says they are better off. so, those kids don’t even have that one day a week with mom or dad – that’s like a bonus that mine gets.

    i also try to remind myself that i would not be as good of a mom if i was doing it 24/7. some moms are cut out for that, but i’m not one of them!

  • 4 Damaris // Oct 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I loved tis post, as expected.

    Isn’t it crazy how guilty we feel over so many things. Yesterday i let my son go at it. He wanted to bake his own cookie recipe, the one that calls for 1 cup salt. the one that he so neatly had planned out in his head.

    I felt guilty about him wasting ingredients. Then i felt guilty about not being supportive.

    I finally let him make his cookies.

    Your girls are lucky to have you as their mom. You seem cool, so cool. Me personally, I’m a way better mom when I also have work on the side. Being home all day is way harder for me than working and being a mom.

  • 5 phyllis // Oct 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I laughed out loud when i read what you wrote about Perfect Madness and I don’t Know How she Does it. Those books are still by my bedside. Can’t seem to get through them. I’m too damn tired to read! I love the birthday pancake idea. We have birthweeks around here as well. So nice to read your blog. I look forward to further updates about the birthweek.

  • 6 Rivki Locker // Oct 20, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    As a full-time working mom of four kids, I can TOTALLY relate to your post today. My oldest daughter makes me feel touched but also very sad when she tells me that Wednesday is her favorite day of the week because I work from home that day so I’m home to make her hair in the morning and to see her on and off the school bus.
    The guilt can just kill us moms!

  • 7 Jessica // Oct 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Cute post. Saturday is our “special day.”
    It’s when the girl and I have a ‘jama party (we wear pajamas, slippers & robes), cook a proper breakfast & watch cartoons before embarking on our weekend adventure.

    If we did any of that on a different day, or failed to do one of them on Saturday, it magically wouldn’t be as special. Funny how that works, huh?

    IDKHSDI is, however, one of my least favorite books. Can’t like them all!

  • 8 Trish O // Oct 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    It is funny that someone said they are a way better mom when they work. I don’t work but I think I would have been a way better mom if I had worked. I think my kids would have done well in daycare. Being home full time when they were little was stressfull. And now that I have two in school I feel like I really really do have to do everything at home as that is my job. But I don’t like having the pressure of all the home jobs and feeling guilty that I don’t bring any income in. That is hubby’s job so I don’t want to ask him to help too much at home. However, how do you get back into the job market in this market after you have been out for 9 years. I made a mistake when my kids were born. Sorry to unload. I know, a cooking blog and not my blog. SO off topic.

  • 9 Jen // Oct 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

    @Trish O – I hear you, it will be hard to get back into the job market after being out for a long time. if you can afford it (i.e., if daycare won’t wipe out all your earnings and then some), i would recommend looking for something very low-level, like an admin position, or office manager, at a company where you could foresee some growth potential once you show them that you have half a brain and can handle some more responsibility. Don’t forget that being a mom and managing a house is not the same as sitting on your but for years on end, it’s hard work too and requires a lot of varied skills that are also useful in a workplace. it takes a lot of organizational skills to raise a couple of kids and still be here to tell the tale.

    try not to feel too guilty about not bringing in any monetary income – you contribute to the household too, even if it’s not financially. i’m guessing you have dinner on the table most nights and take care of most household things like laundry, waiting around for the cable guy, etc. that has value and i’m sure your husband appreciates that he doesn’t have to deal with that stuff (even if he doesn’t realize that he appreciates it!).

  • 10 Jenny // Oct 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Trish O – Except for mean-spirited comments, nothing is off topic here. This is the dinner table, remember? Jen – on behalf of DALS and Trish O, thanks for the pep talk.

  • 11 Trish O // Oct 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Jen, I also say thank you. I think I was having a moment yesterday. Your pep talk really helped me put it back into shape. Thank you for the ideas. And Jenny, thank you for letting me vent. Dinner with friends is a great place for a mid life breakdown. Thank you all. Ok, stepping away from the fundraiser cookiedough that I have been eating and back to roasting some veggies.

  • 12 Pam // Oct 21, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Oh wow, my heart broke a little when I read about your Friday ritual. Being torn between wanting to keep things normal and also create special moments…it is so hard to let go of something special because you want to do right by your kids, and yet second-guess yourself the whole time. I hope your life is less complicated now! :)

  • 13 Melissa // Oct 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    re: the mom/guilt/special/not special stuff…my guess is that for every “answer”, there will be countless more “questions”…such is the definition of Mom.

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