Sometimes, like when I've spent five hours on an airplane with two screaming children, Mommy Mondays come on Tuesdays. I thrive on consistency.
A few years ago, in preparation for a reunion, the grown children of my parents and their closest friends started emailing about our shared family memories. We spent summers and holidays and vacations together, this group of several families, and now we're grown with children of our own.
We all got nostalgic over email, listing the things we remember that were magical about growing up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Weekends on the lake, spring break on the slopes. I'm the youngest in this particular group, so I especially love listening to my siblings and our family friends talk about these days.
I let my mom read the email thread (or maybe she was even on the thread herself) and she was aghast at what us kids remembered. It wasn't the meals she so painstakingly prepared. It wasn't the clothes and costumes she labored over with her sewing machine. The kinds of things that got us all misty-eyed were faded leopard swimsuits and nutter butters.
And it's true, my mom does seem to show up with nutter butters at any snack-y occasion and there may have been a leopard swimsuit involved at some point. But those aren't the things SHE remembered. Those surely aren't the things any of the other adults remembered. But the next generation, the kids who are now parents, they all carry memories with the same tinting.
This has to go back a hundred years, mothers trying to create a certain experience for their kids. Now we have pinterest and magazines and pretty blogs to make us feel inadequate, but the principle has always been there. You stay up all night stenciling a science project, cooking a meal from scratch, perfecting birthday decorations. And what do your kids take from it all? Nutter Butters.
You just can't help what will stand out to them or what they'll remember forever. It most certainly won't be what you think it will. But here's the catch that has taken me a very long time to learn: all this stuff you do for your kids isn't always about your kids. How my mom remembers those years matters. That process of creating the Santa illusion wasn't just for me, it makes her memories magic, too.
Whenever I'm frustrated with how a family plan is playing out, or when I simply don't have the time or skill to craft something picture perfect, I think about the nutter butters. They always sat on the picnic table, alongside tastier treats. I feel sure that my mom does not want to be remembered for store bought cookies. But I also guess that maybe she doesn't mind. That a whole slew of mothers and kids and now grandkids looks at those childhoods with fondess, that's the real gain here.