Hey lovely readers! I’ll apologize for our lengthy absence from the blog in a later post, but what you’re about to read is a guest post from a university friend of mine, Jacqueline Melissen. I sat next to her for a couple years in concert choir, where she kept me quite entertained, and again in several English & Creative Writing courses. She recently started up a blog over at Two Fun Moms with another (presumably fun) mom, Julie. I recommend that you go check them out – they actually are as fun as they claim to be! (You can find them on Facebook over here.)
Allow me to tell you about the cake for my daughter’s birthday party. She was turning three and had very clear ideas about every area of her life, including her birthday party, and she decided that she wanted a watermelon cake. You and I realize that this is not really a normal request, but she was also pretty clear about the fact that she didn’t really care about what was “normal.” I knew she’d be perfectly fine with anything chocolate, but it was her birthday and I wanted to surprise her by getting her what she asked for.
If I had looked up “watermelon cake” on pinterest, or even google, I would have been able to find a recipe for a watermelon-flavoured cake, pictures of a “cake” that’s really an icing-covered watermelon, or instructions (complete with impressive photos) about how to make an oval cake covered in green fondant with white stripes. I bet I could have found out that there’s a way to bake a cake inside a real watermelon rind in a process that takes eight to ten hours. There’s a good chance that I would have even found a simple idea for an easy-to-make cake that looks just enough like a watermelon to please a three-year-old. I could have pinned all of these options so I could quickly find them when it came to decision time.
I could have done that. But I didn’t. What I did do was buy a cake from the freezer section of the grocery store and very carefully remove it from the packaging.* I then took watermelon-shaped candies and formed them into a three on the top. A few candles later and, voila! I was done. If I had pinned the other options, they would have been ignored because none of them were as simple as this lazy (but totally successful!) option.
But I have a friend, Joleen. She is definitely a Pinterest person. She is constantly pinning these ridiculous recipes. Chickpea peanut butter cookies, beet-based brownies, granola bars with sesame seeds and honey, and flax-seed chocolate muffins—these are the contents of her freezer, and the snacks she feeds to her picky sons. Here’s the thing, though: I know Joleen well, and I’ve known her for a long time, and somehow I’ve never seen her stressed out about something she saw on pinterest, or something she’s pinned but then ignored. When she finds a recipe about making pancakes using flour you make yourself from hemp hearts,* it somehow, inexplicably, makes her excited, and then the process of making the “pancakes” relaxes her. She looks forward to the process of baking, she likes the challenge of taking something healthy and making it taste good, and then she likes knowing that her kids are getting health food when they think they are getting a treat.
And you know what else? I greatly benefit from this. I’m over at her house a lot stealing her food, and when my kids are there and she offers them a cookie, I am certain that that cookie will be the healthiest thing they eat that day—and my picky kids actually eat it even though it’s made with almond flour and chia seeds! It’s unbelievable!
So, for me, comparing my perfectly acceptable choices to other people’s exceptional choices makes me feel worse about what it is that I’m already going to do regardless. I’m not likely to make organic play-dough, and having the recipe pinned only reminds me that my kids are playing with (and eating, probably) the chemical-filled store-bought stuff regularly. But Joleen doesn’t have this problem because rarely pins something she’s not going to actually do, and then when she’s in search of a baking idea, she has easy access to “that one she saw somewhere that one time” because it’s on her pinterest page instead of only in the dark and vague corners of her memory.
I just worry about the tendency we have to make ourselves feel inadequate for things that are not actually important (I doubt that anyone at my three-year-old’s party felt bad for the giddy birthday girl because she had a store-bought cake), and that is why I will occasionally poke fun at Pinterest, and why I will continue to write a blog that is kind of the “anti-Pinterest” (see, our Parenting Hacks, for example). Maybe promoting my lazy, no craft, non-organic, DIY-free parenting style will make other parents feel more confident about embracing their own Pinterest fails and store-bought baking.
I do acknowledge, however, that there are people who do not feel inadequate when they ignore their own pins, or who enjoy crafting with their children on rainy mornings at home. For those of you (like Joleen, and like Jenn and Marya, of course) who are able to use Pinterest to improve upon ideas you were already going to do—who genuinely enjoy finding inspiration for crafts and hobbies and recipes, and then having a place to save those ideas—I actually do get it, and I’m happy for you that you have such a crazily helpful tool to use.
So while I don’t use Pinterest, I’m sure happy other people do. My kids have gone to some amazing birthday parties, get to do cool activities while on playdates, and have received some really great homemade cards and gifts. I’m going to keep buying store-bought cakes, but you can feed my kids chickpea cookies any time.
*Use scissors to cut the foil tray. You’re welcome!
**Please don’t tell me whether or not this is actually possible. I don’t care.