I have endless guilt when it comes to my children. ENDLESS.
I have guilt over the genetic things I either know or fear they’ve inherited from me or their dad. I’m not even talking about deadly disease sorts of things—I feel guilty that Chickadee’s needed glasses since she was a toddler or that Monkey needed a palate expander and braces.
I have guilt over every difficulty they ever experience, whether it involves me or not. I feel guilty when they’re mad or sad or frustrated, because if I was a GOOD mother, I’d be able to fix it.
I still—coming up on six years later—have guilt about divorcing their father, even though I have always believed (and continue to believe) that this life is the far, far better alternative for them, even with its inherent issues.
I’m aware that this may not be 100% logical. But this is what happens when you’re raised Jewish.
(Kidding! I mean, I hear Catholics are pretty good at the guilt thing, too.)
My point is, I HAVE GUILT. Always.
Mostly I have learned to live with it. On really good days I can even look one of them in the eye and say, “Oh my. That is a very sad story. Your life is horrible. How do you stand it?” That’s like the Zen level of parental comfort, when you feel secure enough in the goodness of your children’s lives to taunt them. Really. Those moments are fleeting but comforting. (Well, for me. Probably not so much for the kids.)
Anyway. All of this is a preface to what I’m about to tell you.
Part of the reason I started freelancing was because I wanted the flexibility it would afford me to be here for my kids. I’ve always been able to take them here and there and go volunteer at school and such, and that’s really important to me. So when the room mother for Monkey’s class asked me if I would be willing to help with the class cake, of course I said yes.
[Our school does a cake auction to raise money. In addition to, you know, actual DELICIOUS cakes baked by real bakers, each class decorates a cake to enter, as well.]
I contacted the teacher to find out what “theme” the class had chosen. She told me they’d be doing “under the sea.” We discussed things like gummy fish. We made an appointment for me to show up for decorating.
And then somewhere between that conversation and now, I LOST MY MIND.
Because a sane person would just bake a sheet cake and come in and let the kids stick gummy fish on it and call it good.
But if you are ME, you figure out how to make a pirate ship out of cake, then you figure out how to modify it so that you can put a small, sunken, somewhat wrecked pirate ship on TOP of a sheet cake which will then be decorated like the bottom of the sea. And then you spend an evening shopping for things like graham crackers (sand!) and cereal straws (wooden beams!) and fruit roll-ups (seaweed!) and then you find yourself baking the THREE cakes that will need to be ASSEMBLED into the one sunken pirate ship cake and also wondering if maybe that store across town where you can buy bulk candy has any LITTLE EDIBLE SKULLS.
And then you realize that AFTER all of that, you have to go help 20-something third graders decorate it, and so then you add a few underwater caves and buy “just a few more things” they can use to make it look really cool.
Cake supplies: $30.
Guilt: Hundreds of dollars in therapy.
Being able to say, “Remember that time I made that jacked-up pirate cake and brought it into your class and let you and your classmates stick three pounds of candy onto it?”: Priceless.