I've had an attack of the mama guilt.
My youngest girl, precious Ella, went to school this morning with her handmade Valentine's box to catch all the class Valentines.
For two weeks she and her little brother have been experimenting with cereal and tissue boxes, duct and masking tape, and scissors. They have cut jagged rectangles into their boxes and secured paper to their sides with the aforementioned tape. They have drawn goofy hearts and plastered on animal stickers.
And each box has looked like...well...hmmmm. I don't know what to say. I'll let you picture them.
Suffice it to say that I made some suggestions, and I finally offered up some of the shoe boxes that protect my high heels. But their Papa said they had cut up enough boxes, and Ella said she was fine.
Earlier this week and just today I saw the boxes some of the children were bringing in for their Valentines. They were very neat, keeping to a theme. Almost all were made out of large shoe boxes. One was a Princess castle complete with turrets and a prominent crown and one a happy heart dude with legs, antennae and a cheerful face. Others were more modest but still very meticulously done.
I suspect many a parent wielded scissors, colored paper, stickers and even a hot glue gun this week in preparation for today.
And what did I do? I sent my little girl to school with a tissue box wrapped in plain paper with blue masking tape stripes that were peeling loose at the edges.
Gosh, what can I say?
Beside the elegant boxes this morning, parents were helping their children haul in large glittery bags full of, I assume, amazing treats for teachers and fellow students. My kids have run-of-the-mill candy - no cards this year - and I forgot to pick up something special for their wonderful, overworked teachers.
Ahhh, mama guilt, you old friend! Come and nag me by the fire!
My only consolation about all this Valentine's stuff is that Ella decorated the box herself and that, presumably, she made it just the way she wanted it. Her older sister, Ana, and I talked about it a little anxiously this morning, but one of the school paras assured me that a child's own work is what teachers prefer. Yet, should I have supported her more? Should I, like a good mama, have bought extra fun materials for her creation?
She didn't ask for my help - though she did ask for shoe boxes - and I really just want Ella to feel good about her box, and I'm afraid I failed to insure that she would.
No, I don't think I should have created it for her! Even in preschool when all the other little ones showed up with star student posters that were color-coordinated and carefully laid out, my kids' posters had their messy but adorable handiwork on them.
But though I made sure my kids were part of the creative process, I still compared our efforts to others'.
Perhaps that's my problem, and I certainly hope I don't pass on the comparing bug. I just don't want another student to say anything judgmental about Ella's box and then have her feel discouraged as she gazes around at others' productions, wishing her mama had helped her more.
When I pick up my little girl, I wish her to be beaming as she holds her small striped box full of treats and tells me all about her day.
That would indeed be a wonderful treat for me.
And next year I'll try to get into the Valentine's spirit a little earlier in case Ella should need me.