Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gold Star Moments

When I was in elementary school I had a teacher who gave out little gold star stickers for excellent work. At one point, one of my classmates decided to exhibit her gold star on the outside of her Lisa Frank folder, which immediately began a trend and soon all of our folders glittered and shined with our second grade achievements.  

Back then, there was nothing more rewarding than a tiny gold star, proudly displayed as a symbol of all my hard work.

Sometimes I miss those gold stars.

The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw this photo posted by my amazingly crafty friend Courtney:

Yes. YES. It is an adorable homemade, magnetized, colorfully illustrated chore chart. For her 4-year-old.

And the first words out of my mouth were, Well, crap.

Not only does my 4-year-old NOT have a chore chart, her 4-year-old is totally kicking my 4-year-old’s butt in the areas of cleanliness, studiousness and responsibility.

I mean, her 4-year-old wipes the table AND the floor! He MEMORIZES A WEEKLY BIBLE VERSE. He does "HOMEWORK" in a WORKBOOK!!

I can just see it now: her little Berkley perched in a miniature chair in his spotless, organized playroom, munching tiny crudité and solving for x in his math workbook. I bet she's even taught him to write his FULL NAME.

Well, crap. My 4-year-old can dress himself. Although he usually ends up looking something like this:
"What do you mean it's too hot to wear four shirts??"

And, just like that, if I’m not careful, my thoughts will slowly wind themselves down a dark and dangerous path called Comparison.

She’s more creative than you. Her child is smarter than yours. She is a better mother than you.

We all do it. We see posts from our friends or pictures on Pinterest and we compare ourselves to something that was never meant to act as a unit of measurement for our own self-worth.

Just last week I posted this photo of some Colorful “C” Cookies my son and I made to bring to “C” day at preschool. 

After I posted the picture I remembered Courtney’s chore chart and I wondered if others would think similar thoughts about my photo. Were there other mothers feeling a pang of jealousy at that very moment grumbling, "I can't believe she’s BAKING HOMEMADE COOKIES with her child while the most impressive thing to go in my oven lately are store-bought crescent rolls!"

I didn’t post my photo to show that I am a superior mother, just as Courtney didn’t post hers for that reason.

I posted the photo because in the midst of poopy diapers and toddler tantrums, in between a morning of hurried errands and an evening of sibling spats, I created this moment with my son.

As his siblings napped we mixed the dough and discussed his favorite part of preschool (lunchtime). While rolling it out, we debated the very bestest superhero (verdict: Superman). And, as we cut out cookies and sprinkled sugar, he confided in me his future ambition (to be a toy salesman). We weren't just making cookies, we were making memories

He was so proud to pack up his cookies and tote them off to school in the morning. I felt proud that in the midst of a crazy day, I was able to create a memory with him through tiny, sprinkled treats.

Those cookies were my gold star moment. However, as mothers, there are no teachers looking over our shoulders waiting to approve and applaud our best work. We have no folders on which to line up our tiny gold accolades. But sometimes we still need those gold stars.

Perhaps that’s why we snap a picture of our gold star moments and send them out into the universe.  Maybe we’re still looking for a little bit of approval. Maybe we’re declaring to the world, “Look! Look at what I did today! Look at my happy babies! See, I AM a good mother!”

There will always be someone, somewhere out there to envy. And there will always be someone who is envious of you.

So instead of rolling our eyes at a seemingly perfect family photo or feeling a twinge of resentment over someone else's superior design skills, maybe we should look outward rather than focusing inward.

I say, Mamas, show me your naptime projects, your kitchen masterpieces, your Elves on Shelves, your elaborately-themed birthdays, your single-cupcake celebrations, your late-night sick baby snuggle sessions, that new haircut or even your chore chart that puts all other chore charts to shame.

When we see our friend proudly displaying her daily accomplishment, let’s promise to say to each other,

Good job, Mama.

You are a great mother.

Here’s your gold star.

And the moment is over.

1 comment:

  1. right on! i love this! gold star for you!