I realized I had teased but never followed up on a story from the summertime about my first blush with competitive mommy behavior. Until that point I thought I was doing a pretty good job of being a practical mommy – dressing my baby in hand-me-downs (because how many times do they really wear an outfit the first year before growing out of it?), using reasonably priced brands like Graco instead of Britax or Chicco (no matter how much I still drool over them…), purchasing toys at consignment sales and gratefully accepting toys from friends with older kids, actually using jarred (!) baby food instead of painstakingly pureeing my own (one of the big baby company manufacturing plants is actually not too far from where I live, so I could justify it being local), using formula, etc. You do the best to make the best decisions with the information and resources (time, money) that you have to do what’s right for your family – end of story.
Then Ms. Perfect came along. Her son was in the same infant classroom as mine and was born exactly one month ahead of mine. I could see early on that his development – sitting up, rolling over, waving, walking – far superseded the timeline of my own son. A month might go by and my little one would not have caught up to his Perfect classmate. Ms. Perfect, however, had in less than six months shrunk down back to a size 0, wearing cute outfits every day, great shoes, perfect hair, never looking harried or rushed – while I was still struggling to lose the last 10 pounds, still in my maternity work pants on particularly bad days, and feeling like I was barely holding it together. How did she do it? Worst of all, she was nice – as we dropped off and picked up at about the same times, we often saw each other in the hallway or classroom and made small talk. In an alternate universe I imagined us actually being friends.
But I didn’t hold all of this against her, at least, not at first. She drives a gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoe (that makes me feel practical by comparison) and I have no idea what her life is really like, what she does for a living, how happy she might be. She’s got a kid who’s an early bloomer, so what? No need to get my panties in a bunch.
One day there was a sign-up outside the classroom door for parents to bring in breakfast during Teacher Appreciation Week. One of my biggest and best go-to breakfast dishes is a baked French toast casserole. It feeds a crowd, isn’t terribly hard to make, and turns out very gourmet. It’s so well-liked that it is guaranteed to show up on my Christmas brunch table every year. I headed over to the sign-up sheet, pen in hand, ready to volunteer my baking – and there it was, in perfectly legible mom-handwriting.
French toast casserole – Ms. Perfect
That b! Foiled again! I quickly wrote down “banana bread” and walked away.
It turns out it was probably the better choice to bring something simple. My banana bread is pretty good, relatively healthy, and, as it was a staff-wide breakfast, my teachers wouldn’t have been able to pick out my breakfast from someone else’s. Plus they’re so busy they probably would have only had time (and hands) to grab something and go.
Well, I learned my lesson. There were a few with this one:
1. Sometimes being a mom means being served up a huge dose of humility.
2. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shortcut every now and then. There is a time and a place for the French toast casserole, and this time wasn’t it.
3. People appreciate the little things as much as, and sometimes more, than the big gestures.