Moderation ‘Aint My Middle Name

I would like to think that I regularly demonstrate temperance and moderation.  Though you might find the wrapper to a single-serving cookie shoved under the seat of my car, my house is completely devoid of all snack foods packaged in a box or bag.  Yes, I work hard, but I also enjoy a long nap at least once a week.  I love the feel of new jeans, fresh off the rack, hugging me in just the right places — I only buy them when they are first on the sale rack.  All signs that I, for the most part, am a completely rational human being.

Then there are these moments, when I pause and I wonder: at what point did I take a sharp left towards the insane asylum.

 Oddly enough, nothing brings out the loony in me like  “snack days” and birthdays.

My children have experienced the joys of  “snack leaderhood”  since their preschool years.  Being snack leader means standing first in every line, assisting the teacher with passing out worksheets, and watching classmates ooh and aah as the afternoon snack is revealed. I, from the beginning, determined my children would reign as coolest snack leaders ever.

For six solid years, I have pulled out my day planner at the beginning of each month to confirm which days my children would wear the snack leader tiara.  I have marveled each week as all the normal parents arrive with a plastic grocery sack containing store brand apple juice and a box of Cheez Its. 

My snacks always have a theme, and come in a basket draped neatly with colorful napkins.

I once made a rice krispie treat in the shape of the world, continents and all, for the week when the preschool was learning the “He’s got the whole world in His hands” ditty.  For penguin week: a penguin shaped cake, of course, surrounded by fish crackers and served with blue juice dubbed “ocean water.”  Other snacks have been built around more classic themes like bugs and snowmen. 

Not all snacks came together easily.

Last year I made a cupcake cake in the shape of a horse for my daughter’s second grade class.  It grew bigger than my kitchen table, and needed refrigeration. I ended up on a covert operation to sneak it into the school’s walk-in (the Fort Knox version of refrigerators).  An entire Sunday vanished into the black hole of snack day prep.

Two years ago, my son attended an all day preschool.  My husband was on drop off duty that year and doubled as delivery man on snack days.  At the end of the year a mom I never met asked if I knew anything about the really sweet “gay father.”  “Who is that,” I asked her.  To which she responded with a perfect description of my husband ending with: “you know, the guy who brings all the really fancy snacks.”

If snack days make me loony, then birthdays drive me right off the cliff.

My daughter’s fifth birthday was celebrated at the local pool, reserved for us and her fifty closest friends.  The celebration centered around all things dolphin including fifty ride-on dolphin inflatables. One for each guest, of course. 

Last year she spent the day at the spa with just one close friend.  The lavish event included matching outfits and spa kits, manicures, pedicures, facials, full make-up and hair, some time in the eucalyptus steam room, sparkling cider in the relaxation room, and a full spa lunch.  She was seven.

My son asked for a super hero party when he turned five.  I rented the local bounce house and I sewed together thirty-five capes for all of his guests. Each cape had a letter on the back and when the kids lined up it spelled his name.  The other side of the cape had a five sewn on it.  That birthday followed his pirate party which centered around a giant pirate ship, pirate themed carnival games with pirate prizes and booty bags, and all pirate snacks including “Aaarng Juice.”  Which all led up to this year’s Nerf War.  Yes, I did make a cake that looked like a nerf gun.

I share all this with you not as a bragging point nor a cry for a cure.  I share it as a precursor to the guilt I feel today.

Yesterday, my daughter turned eight.  The day was not filled with inflatables and pedicures, but regular day stuff with intermittent gifts. 

I am not sure how it happened except that her birthday fell in the midst of too many “other things” this year.  The day came and went, and I never quite pulled anything together (with the exception of some cupcakes with beams, bars, and floors on them for snack time at gymnastics — typical). 

History calls me a failure, but perspective tells another story.  My daughter had a birthday with her family.  We made her favorite things for lunch and all sat down together to eat (a rare occurence when my husband and I work opposing shifts).  Grandma and Papa came over for cake.  Aunt Laura called and they chatted for almost an hour.  Her pile of gifts did not look like we had thrown a toy drive, but everything she received reflected who she is: a new bikini, modeling clay, a pile of pajamas, fancy shoes, coconut scented lotion. . . . 

Past extremes  are not made void by one day of moderation.  There is no need for regrets over past birthday fare.  They include memories I cherish daily.  I am realizing today as I work through the guilt, that there is no need for regret this year either.  The memories of this year are just as sweet.

I asked Teagan for her favorite thing about her birthday.  She responded with “when Karli brought me a present.”  Karli is my friend, who knew I was feeling bad about what did not happen and surprised Teagan with a small bag of  treasures.  I worried so much about what Teagan expected for her birthday, and the best part for her was  what she did not expect at all.

Christians often use moderation as a code of conduct: all the do nots of life.  I don’t think that’s what God means when He asks for piety and temperance.  I think He is simply asking us to come out of the extremes and to live for the unexpected.

I don’t know if I will ever show up for a snack day with a plastic bag of juice and crackers.  I do hope that as I see a few more birthdays, that I will also grow in wisdom and piety so that I might see the treasures only found in the things I did not expect.