Somewhere in the archive of photos at my parents' house (and by "archive" I mean "large boxes full of photographs") there exists a picture of me, probably around Mary's age, in a totally '80s sweatsuit, jumping on my parents' bed and wearing a bright green plastic derby hat.
I was a random kid and for all I know that picture was taken in July when it was 87 degrees outside, but the hat was something my grandmother bought, probably at Woolworth's, for me for St. Patrick's Day. In those days, that was probably pretty "over the top." I remember scrounging to find something green to wear to school because I didn't own a lot of green, and the teacher sticking leprechaun "feet" - just two of them - on the wall for us to find in the week or so leading up to St. Patrick's Day. That was it, and it was exciting.
For Valentine's Day, my mom and I would pick out a kit at the store. Bonus points if it came with super cool stickers. There was an afternoon devoted to making a "mailbox" in school out of a Kleenex or shoe box, the more paint, the better. And then you got 20-something little cards and took them home and made your parents look at each. and. every. one. with you, complete with detailed summary of why each one was funny. ("It says 'I choo-choo-CHOOSE you!' And there's a picture of a train!")
This year Mary and Anna got Cinderella Valentines with my mom. They were thrilled because they came with stickers. We signed their names and sent them off to school, and I was patting myself on the back because I didn't forget and actually sent them to school in red clothing. Mommy points for the win!
And then they came home. There were a few drugstore cards in the bunch. Mary even brought home another Cinderella card, proof that at least one other family in her class has been through the doors of a WalMart at some point. And then...there were gift bags full of candy. From individual students. Pencils. Crayons. Hair clips from Gymboree. Enough candy between the two of them to almost fill a trick or treat bucket halfway. I've been doling it out a bit at a time for weeks now. They've mostly forgotten all about it, just in time for Easter.
When did this happen? I'm not begrudging parents who have the time or inclination (or money, for me, it's less time and creativity and more the inability to shell out $30 on Valentine's treats for a classroom), but when did goody bags for 22 become the gold standard in Valentine's Day giving? Since when am I supposed to build a "leprechaun trap" in my home, bedazzle the place in green glitter and scatter gold coins?
I have no idea but my message boards, Facebook wall and Pinterest were full of "good" mommies who had set traps, dyed foods green, scattered candy. I suggested dying the milk green "for fun" and my husband looked at me like I had suggested becoming a swinger.
There's the Elf on the Shelf, which I admit I participated in, but I still don't fully understand it. The kids had fun, though, and that's what counts, but I devoted maybe five minutes at the end of the day to that.
I want my kids' childhood to be a time of excitement and wonder, but when every holiday is a 10 on the grandeur scale, when does it stop being exciting? If I go all out on St. Paddy's Day, what happens two weeks later on Easter? Is that even exciting anymore? (We'll leave the religious aspect, which I do try to promote above all else, aside for the moment.) And how do I explain that some kids get bikes from the Easter bunny, and my kids get Palmer's chocolate in a basket? Will they start expecting gifts for the Fourth of July? Labor Day? Just when did Easter become a "gift" holiday and how did I miss that memo in the first place?
Do I blame Pinterest? Parents who have more money than I do? Parents who have more time and only one child? Parents who had childhoods full of wonder who feel they owe the same to their kids? Parents who had their elementary years marked by deprivation who want better for their children?
I don't want to be Scrooge Mom, but I don't want my kids to expect a ticker tape parade for every "day" on the calendar either. Nor do I want them to feel left out if their friends' experiences far trump their own. At the same time, do I really want to commit myself to years of elves and gold coins and presents from the tooth fairy?
What does one wear for Arbor Day, anyway?