As I stood in line with the hordes of parents waiting to enter my daughter’s school to participate in the Halloween festivities, I felt excited. I love this time of year, and it’s when I get involved.
I’m not a room mother. I don’t usually volunteer to plan the festivities. I don’t typically go on field trips or participate in the PTA. But, every year, I bring some treats for the Halloween party and offer to help run the games.
This year, the room mother asked that I bring goodie bags. I bought some cute pumpkin cellophane treat bags and filled them with the typical holiday swag – pencils with ghosts, witch tattoos, spider rings, vampire teeth, the usual.
As I waited, I started to take notice of the parents around me. Some of them were literally dragging carts – the kind I see people bringing to set up booths at the local careers fair. These carts toted costumes the parents obviously spent hours painstakingly crafting, too elaborate for transport in book bags on the bus.
I bought my daughter’s Queen of Hearts dress at Wal-Mart this year. They had a sale. It comes with a headband – pretty neat.
When we got to the classroom, the room mother acted flustered. She didn’t know where things should go or when they should be put out. She was overwhelmed by all the parents waiting – waiting for directions, waiting to help, waiting to display their hours of labor.
“Sorry, I didn’t have time to work out all the details. I was busy putting everything together.”
She had hollowed out 26 oranges and carved little jack-o-lantern faces in each of them. She had filled each of them with grapes and put little pieces of celery on top for the stem. She had filled 26 rubber gloves with sprinkled popcorn, and candy corn for the fingers, neatly tied off with a perfect ribbon. Each glove came with a matching spider ring.
Don’t get me wrong. I think all these things are adorable. I love the creativity people put into things. I’m sure some people really enjoy coming up with these ideas and spending the hours it takes to orchestrate them. Some people, on the other hand, don’t.
Some parents simply don’t have the time. Some, like me, just weren’t born with that gene. (My cooking is sub-par. I could never paint or sew or craft or design.) Some people just don’t want to be part of an unspoken contest where the love you have for your children is displayed in how creative your knickknacks are. So why do we force ourselves to be this way?
Each year seems to get a little worse. There’s a pressure to be the best, better than other parties, better than last year, better than the Pinterest board you found it on. Add that to the pressure to perfectly display your party and/or children on Facebook and Instagram and get more likes than your last event. It’s an endless cycle. A battle, even. And it’s got to be wearing others thin, right?
My Instagram is full of days at the park, football games, and backyard swimming. It doesn’t contain one elaborate meal or fantastic craft. I don’t even have a Pinterest login. I’m lucky though. My daughters don’t care that I bought their costume at the store. They don’t care that I host their birthday party at the YMCA instead of having the latest themed party chock full of beautiful treats. It’s okay that I never bake; we get cupcakes at the grocery store.
Yesterday, at school, as I took a picture, my daughter posed proudly with her friends in all their adorable homemade costumes. She slapped on the candy corn bracelet I bought and loudly told everyone how she planned to wear it all week. She ate all her grapes, thanked the room mother, and then threw her intricate jack-o-lantern orange in the trash. She also told me how happy she was that I came to her school on Halloween. To me, that’s the best use of my time.
So, let’s stop stressing ourselves out. If you love carving 26 little oranges into pumpkins, more power to you! I can only imagine how beautiful your daughter’s wedding will be. And I might need to call you to help me fix that hole in my daughter’s jeans.
But if you’d rather by candy corn slap bracelets at the store, go for it! You’re doing your part to support the holiday trinket economy. Either way, your kids all love you. The photos of you smiling alongside your cute kids always get the most Instagram likes anyway.