Paper product moms of the world, unite.
You know who you are. You lunge for the classroom party sign-up sheet to scrawl your name next to napkins or paper plates. You act casual when people talk about bake sales, and manage to get a very important text just when they ask for volunteers. You have instructed your kids to never, ever, sign you up for anything that involves food preparation.
I was one of you. I still am. In fact, I am your leader.
When my oldest daughter first started preschool, it was back in the days of dial up internet. There was no Pinterest or Facebook to make me feel ashamed for not doing more. Want cupcakes? Sure, I can do that. I bought a box of mix and a tub of frosting and called it good. The children were happy for the sugar high, no matter what the cupcakes looked like. While the baked goods were not pretty, they were popular in preschool.
Things started to change in elementary school. Sometimes the teachers requested Ziploc baggies with 15 grapes each. Sometimes the snacks had to match a theme. To be fair, the teachers probably would have been happy with anything. But some moms – and let’s face it, it’s usually the moms who do classroom parties – really got into it. Cupcakes with reindeer faces. Cupcakes shaped like bugs. Cupcakes that looked like the Eiffel Tower. Now my cupcakes from a mix didn’t measure up.
At first I felt unworthy. How did these moms have time to make these things? And, more importantly, why? I could come up with about a thousand things I’d rather do than bake cookies in the shape of the letter of the week. It felt like a domestic arms race, and I was seriously outgunned.
I started to shy away from the sign up list and wonder what was wrong with me because I wasn’t jumping to go all Betty Crocker on the second grade. That was especially so when I knew some of those moms had more kids and less time than I did. I once overheard a classroom conversation, however, when a mom said she actually liked doing that kind of thing. It was then I realized that we all have our special gifts, and mine was paper.
It’s more like a superpower, really. No one cared what the napkins looked like, although I tried to make an effort by having snowmen at Christmas. They were easy to transport on the bus and I didn’t need my container back. One shopping trip and I was done.
As food allergies have become more prevalent, and as my children have gotten older, the classroom parties have gotten fewer and easier. Many teachers request store-bought goods. That I can do! Some even request a couple dollars to order pizza – those teachers are my automatic favorites.
Every now and again, those classroom sign-up sheet will re-appear. After more than 10 years of school, my kids know what to do. My daughter sent me a text last year that said “class party in Spanish class on Friday – don’t worry, I signed you up for paper plates.”
(Eso es mis ninas) That’s my girl.