Friday, May 22, 2015

Doing B Work. Or Worse.

Today's message is for the mothers of young-ish children.

These mothers are so energetic. So intense. So driven to do the very best thing for their children. Their children simultaneously wear amber necklaces and princess underwear because they're toilet training while they're still teething. They only read the most uplifting of children's books and they know their letters and numbers before they've graduated out of backward-facing car seats.

I see them all around me, and I recognize them immediately because I was them.

Oh, my Boys didn't wear amber necklaces (because this hippie voodoo had not yet been invented) or princess underwear (which, all things considered, probably was a good thing). But I read to them all. the. time. because that was good for their brain development. They were not allowed to have video game consoles even though every single one of their brilliant friends had video game consoles. They only got a sip of Diet Pepsi when their father popped open a can (never a whole can for themselves), and even that sip helped me develop a little line of disapproval between my eyebrows.

When my children were young-ish I was determined to be an A+ mother or perish in the fight.

I remembered those days last night when Boy#3 arrived home for an all-too-infrequent visit. Somehow the subject rolled around to his high school Spanish class. (There was a conversation trail there, but I won't bore you with it.)

"Do you remember that cake you made for Cinco de Mayo when I was a senior?" Three asked. And we both HOWLED.

The Boys had a wonderful Spanish teacher who allowed her students to celebrate the Mexican Independence Day any way they wanted within school regulations. That, of course, meant they brought food and had a party so Boy#3 asked if I could make a layer cake that looked like the Mexican flag. I had made many a layer cake in the cumulative 76 years I had been a parent by then, and how hard could it be to throw some red food coloring in one of the layers, green in another, and leave the third white? Voila! When cut, it would look just like the Mexican flag.

I didn't start to bake the cake until mid-evening May 4, and honestly I don't know what happened. Maybe the layers hadn't cooled enough when I flipped them out of the pan, maybe the food coloring changed the cooking chemistry, maybe I'm just a terrible baker, but when it came time to stack the layers, they exploded. The cakes looked as if they had been spewed out by Popocatepetl and there was no way they were going to be reconstructed perfectly.

But you know that A+ mother? Yeah. She had pretty much perished in the course of having four teenaged Boys at the same time. A decade earlier I would have burst into tears, yelled at my husband, put the Boys to bed and stayed up all night making a perfect cake.

The mother who had survived babies and toddlers and kids and teens pulled out two cans of frosting and began spackling. I cemented those broken layers together as if I were restoring a Mayan mosaic, including one area where there literally was more icing than cake. By the time it was packed off to the party the cake looked respectable--until it was cut. Then it collapsed like the mirage it was.

Three sent me pictures from the party (and was able to find them in his email last night, even though this was seven years ago--yay for electronic packrat tendencies!).  His message in that email, quoted verbatim:

"That was really good cake.  Thanks for making it."

It was not A+ work. Truth be told, an F+ would have been generous. But apparently the cake tasted fine, and when cut, there were certain pieces that did look vaguely like a Mexican flag. Shown here, with an empanada, it was the breakfast of champions for that Spanish class.

So mothers of young-ish children, don't do A+ work all the time. Have fun raising your kids, cut yourself some slack, and make some memories.

The cake still tastes good.

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