It's so easy to doubt your parenting skills. I generally try to stay away from that kind of self-doubt and focus on more positive things. As a solo parent, it's not like I have anyone to bounce ideas off of, so I rely on family, friends and a few others moms. So, once in a while, it's easy to feel you have dropped the ball on "doing it right."
There are days when I think I'm the best parent ever, when we get everywhere on time, easily. Dinner is made from scratch and I attend my exercise class AND get to shower and wash my hair. And there are days, well, there are days I don't feel good at any of it. Most days, I try to keep my expectations low. I'm happy if the girls get to school on time and have a vegetable with dinner.
And then there are birthday expectations. In theory, I wanted to make thank you gifts for EL's daycare teachers, who have cared for her since she was 4 months old. In theory, I wanted to spend quality time in the kitchen with my daughters making cupcakes (which we would decorate by hand with homemade frosting, of course). And sprinkles. Definitely sprinkles. Everything would be EL's favorite color: yellow. It would be a ray of sunshine on these unending days of rain. In theory, we would have a nice, celebratory evening with our small family and be well-prepared for
I love the chance to cook and bake, but the day's exhaustion set in quickly. I picked up store-bought cookies for her classmates. Hey, at least they were all-natural. I didn't make thank you gifts for the teachers, but made sure there were enough cookies for the adults, too.
That night at home, we bought a pack of 15 yellow balloons, but only blew up four. We had one close friend come over for make-your-own pizzas. Instead of rolling our own dough, I bought a pre-packaged pizza shell and let the girls pile on cheese and olives. They collectively turned up their noses at any other topping. There was a store-bought cake. And candles and singing. And then there was sibling rivalry, fighting, and crying. *Sigh*
But the girls eventually settled down. I asked EL what her favorite part of the day was. She held up three fingers and said: Candles.
For her, it wasn't about homemade vs. store-bought, awesome parent vs. less-than-awesome parent, big party vs night at home with the people she sees every day. I was just those three yellow striped candles. Simplicity.
Whenever I start to feel I have to go overboard to make a day special, I'll remember that moment. And I'll tell myself as many times as I need to hear it, that I'm doing it all right.