The Making of Mediocre Mom (A.K.A. Origin Story)
Every superhero has an origin story. Spiderman got bitten by a radioactive spider. Captain America was given a secret shot by the government. And we all know what happened to Batman’s parents. Sadly, my origin story is not quite as grand. As with most people, there was no one definitive moment in time that turned me into a mediocre mothering superstar. But also like most people, my persona has been shaped by a series of little events over my lifetime.
My childhood days were pretty standard and perfectly pleasant. But the moments that stand out were never the picture perfect moments or the big events. They were the small, imperfect moments that became the kind of anecdotes that I retell over the years and the kind of moments that led me to believe that being a mediocre parent was perfectly fine.
My mother is wonderful, but I suspect she was born into the wrong generation. Like me, domestic economics was not her strong suit. When my teddy bear needed emergency neck surgery, it was my father who would sew him back together. When I had a ridiculous school project that involved an overly elaborate use of art supplies (I am looking at you, California Missions!), my father would be the one to help with the glue gun. (Even now, I cannot use a glue gun without burning myself. Fun fact: I was banned from using one at girl scouts).
Even her cooking was, at best, mediocre. Once in a while dad would make an elaborate breakfast plate for my sister and I or a wonderful Hungarian goulash, but generally it was my mom doing the cooking. She always burned the Pillsbury crescent rolls and fish sticks to the point you would have to actually peel off the black, burnt part if you wanted to make the rest edible. She always blamed the oven, but even when we moved to a new house when I was seventeen, the rolls and fish sticks still magically burned. But these have become the stories of laughter and legend (and the reason I make the rolls at Thanksgiving). I asked her a few times why our dinners were not particularly elaborate. Apparently a big part of it was because my dad often worked late and by the time he came home, the food was cold. We tried to eat together as often as we could, but oftentimes mom was left either eating dinner on her own or waiting until ten p.m. when dad came home. Neither option was particularly great. So I completely understand her lack of desire to make gourmet cuisine. I also learned that it isn’t necessary or vital to a happy, healthy household.
What mom lacked in ability was more than made up for by her ingenuity and creativity. She taught me important things, like how packaging is often more important than product. For volunteer bake sales, she would buy already made brownies, but take them out of the box and put them in their own separate baggies with little holiday stickers on it. They were a hit, and no one was the wiser that they had been made by the grocery store. (Actually this is a neat experiment you should try. I did recently at my son’s preschool. I bought the cookies but moved them into my own Tupperware. They ran out like hotcakes. The preschool director and I had a nice chuckle when I let her in on my secret). But the bottom line is still the same: instead of slaving in the kitchen, spending hours making gluten free, low-fat treats, she saved hours by picking up something already made. Today’s moms could certainly stand to learn this trick.
Mom’s other shortcuts were just as inventive (and funny). One year, tired of wrapping Christmas presents, she bought three big dishwasher-sized boxes and put all of the gifts in the box. She then put one bow on the outside of the box. We still laugh about that Christmas. On another Christmas, tired of everyone snooping for presents, she had them bought and wrapped early. But instead of name tags, she numbered the presents. The numbering was not simple and was not attached to an algorithm, however. Unfortunately, by Christmas, she had lost the list. We spent an entire Christmas morning carefully unwrapping gifts and then being shouted at to “wait, give that present to your sister”. Dad’s holiday shortcuts were just as creative. During the Hanukkah celebration, we never played dreidel the “right” way. Everyone just picked a letter and yelled it out. I will always remember the year my grandmothers kept both competing to be Gimel, and my father affectionately dubbed them the “Gimel Girls’.
Years later, these are the moments I remember. I don’t remember the picture perfect holidays, although I know we had plenty of them. I don’t remember the great dinners, although I know some were perfectly fine. I remember the moments of imperfection, and look back on them fondly. And because of this, I know my children will do the same. They will not remember all of the times I set something up perfectly. They will remember the times that we laughed because things did not go as expected. It is because of this upbringing that I embrace mediocrity and realize that life is a learning curve. It is a journey. If the road we take is the expected road, perfect and straight, what a boring road that would be. So I will take the mediocre road. The one filled with imperfections and shortcuts. Some will work and some won’t. But when I reach the end of that road, I hope my children will look back and, like me, embrace the imperfections that made life worth living.
I am mediocre mom!
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