Last night we had parent-teacher conferences. I usually go into these reminding myself that probably 90% of who M is I can in no way take credit for, except insofar as mate selection and mitosis (or is it meiosis?) are concerned. The other 10%, OK, I'll grant to extended breastfeeding, a decent bedtime, healthful food, a lifetime of reading books and other meager, but usually inadequate-seeming efforts at being a creative and engaged parent (oh, yes, and C's involvement as well). This helps keep me from puffing up to much as M's teachers sing his praises.
After Ms. N went over M's school performance and as we were preparing to leave, she said something along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing,” which I attempted to brush off. Then she related that she hears a lot from M about spending time with his parents DOING things, and that she doesn't hear that a lot from kids, but rather about how they go home and watch TV or play video games.
She mentioned in particular how I had helped him put fabric over a helmet for his Halloween costume.
She was referring to Tuesday afternoon, when, still feeling residual crankiness from the weekend, and just wanting my kids to DO something already, without involving me, so I could make an attempt on Mount Laundry before embarking on Dinner Drudgery, I found myself instead being pulled in all directions, being begged to play and help. So I gave up on my agenda, sat on the floor and played two rounds of Go Fish with E and Z, then set them up with a game of memory and proceeded to help M with part of his Halloween costume—covering a toy hard hat with fabric to make it look like an Army helmet. The fabric he had chosen—a tan and olive ticking stripe—was not quite wide enough and we had to try piecing it together with safety pins, and the final result was less than convincing (it looked more like an old man's driving hat when we were done.
I'm afraid I went into the whole thing—Go Fish game, helmet construction—with a big sigh, probably radiating irritation that I had to actually be INVOLVED with my kids for an afternoon. And look at the impression—a memory made. Mom helped me make an Army helmet with a hard hat and safety pins. He may remember it the rest of his life, or he may forget it instantly (the way he forgot the loaves of bread that come out of the oven weekly, or the plate of popovers I had just placed on the table when, as I put a pan of chocolate cupcakes in the oven for the PTA bake sale he complained, “How come you never bake anything for US?”). Even if I can’t claim responsibility for A’s (or, as it were, E’s) in school, these moments add up to something.
I've been feeling unappreciated and sorry for myself lately, and not quite up to the task I've set out for myself of creating the kind of magical childhood I wish my kids could have. The constant war play defeats me. The fact that M wrote 'The Cartoon Network' as his favorite TV show on one of his school papers, even though we don't even have cable. My vision of how I want it and the way it really is never aligns. And I will always feel woefully inadequate compared to the homeschooling, book-writing, crafting supermoms whose blogs I torture, er inspire, myself with. Yet I can see that my efforts—even the half-hearted begrudging ones—make a difference.
So after we got home from conferences, having slunk up to my room to lie down while C made dinner (feeling ill with out-of-whack blood sugar thanks to eating an inadequate lunch and then having a cupcake and as much of a peanut butter ball as I could stuff down before my kids caught me and stole it away) when I heard C reprimand E for playing with the woodstove, I remembered that we had talked about building a house on the drive home, and came downstairs and sat on the floor for half an hour, stacking blocks into castles and barns, arranging wooden animals and knights. It kept E out of mischief and made me feel both relaxed and virtuous, and maybe, just maybe it will make a memory.