As I lay in bed one night last week, one thought kept needling its way into my thoughts: Should I get up and dye the toilet water green?
You see, it was the night before St. Patrick’s Day, and I knew many children would wake up to leprechaun footprints, green milk in the fridge and all sorts of similar shamrock shenanigans.
But my kids would not. My kids would be greeted by clear toilet water on St. Paddy’s Day. The unspeakable horror!
I wrestled with my urge to get up and do something adorably Irish. It would be so easy — two little drops of food dye in the toilet bowl. But I didn’t do it. Why? Because I simply can’t start one more holiday tradition that will then become mandatory in our house and that I will grow to resent more each year and wonder why in the world I’m even doing it.
Here’s why I’d be doing it: Because other moms do it. Because my kindergartener learned at school that on St. Patrick’s Day, little mischievous men dressed in green come to your house and do funny tricks and leave gold coins.
I’d be doing it out of guilt that my child is somehow missing out on something. Guilt that we don’t celebrate every single holiday on the calendar with a “special visitor” to our home or some elaborate production.
Some mothers may love playing leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. I do not. So I decided not to because motherhood is all about choices. We choose what’s best for our families every day in the foods we buy, the activities we pay for and the way we spend our time.
I choose to spend my time on traditions I have handpicked because they mean something to me. We host a Valentine’s Day tea party every year, for example. We drink hot chocolate on the first snowfall of the year. We have lots of traditions that belong to us because we choose them, and we love them.
As mothers, we can’t do it all. If I tried to do every holiday gimmick I saw on Pinterest, I would drive myself crazy, and I’d take my kids and husband along for the ride. It’s just not possible. I’ve seen too many mothers grudgingly getting out that Elf on the Shelf each Christmas, wondering why they even started down that path. One more obligation. One more thing to remember at the end of the day to make sure our children have the perfect childhood.
If you’re bursting with Elf on the Shelf ideas, more power to you. And if St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans bring you joy, go for it. But if they don’t, let it go. Don’t borrow stress and resentment in an effort to do every holiday, every birthday party, every project to the max.
Make the choices your family needs you to make. There’s only so much time and energy, so what’s really important to you?
For me, I chose not to get up and dye the toilet water green. And you know what? It felt awesome. In some weird way, my little act of omission empowered me. I said no to the guilt. I made a conscious choice for myself and for my family.
I admit, I felt a fleeting pang of mommy guilt when my kindergartener woke up and excitedly hurried into the hallway to look for leprechauns that her friends and teachers had promised her. But I stayed strong despite my inclination to run to the store during the school day to try to fix the look of disappointment on my daughter’s face. Instead, I just helped my kids dress up in green for St. Patrick’s Day, and sent in lots of empty boxes and Lucky Charms for the leprechaun traps they’d make at school.
They’ll probably never know why the leprechauns skip our house each year, but I do. And I also know they will survive their woefully deprived, shamrock-free childhoods. I believe, though, that they will recover a lot better from that than from a childhood with a mother who has buried herself in guilt and obligation.
So, no, they won’t get leprechaun high jinks, but they will get a mother who loves them and herself enough to choose carefully what things matter to our family and what things we can let go.
Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.