the sentimental gene

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Creative Commons - Pink Sherbert Photography
I'm terrible with formalities.

Today my middle son graduated from his kindergarten enrichment program.  He stood in front in his cap and gown, kicked in rhythm, and sang, "Start spreading the news, we're leaving today," while parents watched through their phone screens.  It was a delightful, giggly, adrenaline-infused moment in my little boys life.

Afterwards, what did we do to celebrate?  Not one thing.  I didn't plan a party, I didn't call extended family to let them know.  In fact, I was the only one there to see my little boy graduate today.  Both my best friend and husband missed it because I never told them about it.  They both would have been there, but since they didn't know it was happening, they never had the chance to plan around it.

Showing up matters.  Ceremonies matter.  Making a big deal about our kids' milestones matters. Creating traditions, honoring our kids' accomplishments ... all of it matters. And I'm really bad at it.

It feels like most mothers have a gene - the sentimental gene.

 It's the little tug that gets birthday cards in the mail, that thinks to buy tablecloths at the end of the season and tuck them away for next year.  It makes sure pictures make it from the phone to the photo album and plans themed birthday parties.  The sentimental gene helps you remember what you had for dessert on Easter last year and reminds you to make it again, because now it's a tradition.  It creates the ambiance of a family.  It weaves the fabric of several lives together into one.  The sentimental gene seems to be an essential part of mothering.

Mine got lobbed off somewhere along the way.

My personality does not lend itself to the sentimental gene.  I tend to live in the moment.  I rarely worry about the future, and I almost never dwell on mistakes.  Good or bad, when something is over, I move on.  But living in the moment also means I hardly ever think ahead. And at 7:47 a.m. I am still in my pajamas, ironing my son's shirt (thank God his grandparents sent him a shirt and tie for Easter, or I am certain he would have graduated in his favorite t-shirt), wondering aloud if there's any hope for a mom like me.

I can promise to do better, but how do you work on something that never blips on your radar until it's too late?  It's not as though I think about the birthday card, cackle menacingly, and tuck it back in a drawer.  It's more like I look down at the passenger floorboard, see a two-month-old birthday card crumpled up, and think, CRAP, I never went to the post office?  Do I keep berating myself for not being a different type of mother?  Or do I embrace who I am as part of my family's unique family culture, and tell everyone effected to get over it?

How do you handle the parts of your personality that make your life more difficult?  Where is the balance between pushing yourself to be a better person, and accepting who God created you to be?  After a morning of feeling defeated, I'm going to stop berating myself.  Here's what I'm doing instead:

1.  I'm going to remember the whole of my personality.  No, my kid did not have a cheering squad and his own party today.  But having a mom who lives in the moment means plenty of time to play in a creek, ride bikes to the park, or stay just a little longer with friends.  I'm bad at formalities but I'm pretty good at saying yes and being flexible.  Most of the time, that's a pretty good gig for a little kid.

2.  I'm going to (for the love) keep working on good communication.  The more I talk to the people closest to me, the more we can draw from one another's strengths.  I am missing the sentimental gene, but my best friend is great at creating a vibe. If I had told her he was graduating, she would have naturally asked what we were going to do to celebrate, which would have clued me in to the fact that I may need to plan something.  Communication.  It's what makes the world go around.

3.  I'm not going to put myself in the center of my kids' stories.  Communication makes the world go round, and guilt chokes off communication.  I don't want to become the kind of mom so mired in guilt and lack of confidence that my kids don't want to talk to me.  I'm a person.  A whole, real person.  I'm good at some things, I'm bad at others.  It's important to be transparent, but there is a line between transparency and self-centeredness. I am not the center of my kid's story.  Today is not about my inadequacies, and I won't make the memory about what I did wrong.  My little boy graduated from kindergarten today.  He sang on stage, had cake with his classmates, and got a balloon from his teacher.  When we remember the moment, that's the story I will tell him.  I won't put myself in the center of his story.

How do you balance working on your faults and accepting who you are?

* * * Maybe you noticed this piece has had two titles?  An editor friend emailed and said, "You mean the sentimental gene" and when I read it again, I saw she was right.  I am creating an ambiance in my house.  I am creating the mood, the atmosphere in which we all live.  It's just not a traditional ambiance.  It's the sentimental things - birthday cards and organized photo albums and a whole world of other details - I am sorely lacking.  So I changed the word to reflect a truer meaning, but the rest of the article is the same. Does that make me a flake?  Maybe.  Does flakiness have its own gene?


  1. Stogie...stop cackling menacingly at those birthday cards and just mail them already!

    1. Ha! So it's you .... YOU'RE the voice in my head. =)

  2. Stephanie - I'm part of your "lack of ambiance gene" support group! There were so many things I never thought to celebrate formally at the moment. It would occur to me after the fact and I'd beat myself up for a good day or two. My kids are now 23 and 20 and I'm trying to get better at it! I have a 20 month old grandson and hope to capture more reasons to celebrate!

  3. OH MY GOODNESS this is TOTALLY me!
    My kids have never even HAD a normal birthday party. Oh sure we celebrate and make a big deal but we don't do the party thing (I kind of cringe even thinking about it)
    Don't even get me started on sending cards. Craziness.
    However, when you share what you are doing day to day or the ways you are letting your children be completely themselves, I think, "Man! She's an amazing mom!"
    We all have our genes--you got some great ones.

    I will gladly join any support group that forms as a result of this--but it isn't likely I will reform.

  4. I was just like you and then I found this magical thing on my iPhone and iPad. iCal it's linked ( by my tech savvy husband lol) and it allows me to schedule event with advance alerts up to 2 weeks and this is the best invite other people by email. So when I put it in the calendar and invite my husband and then promptly while it from my brain my husband is invited and shows up. Yeah for me and has helped a lot in my unsentimental in the moment life. Good luck there's help out there.Lanelle

  5. I have thought alot about this post since I read it. I have so much to work on as a mom, but I would have to say the biggest weakness is being a "task mom." When I was in management, I would walk right by my employees and not say good morning because I was in the middle of a task. I am the same way as a parent. I want my children to cooperate with my schedule and I want to get specific things done and when they don't cooperate, I get angry. I try to balance this by having a flexible schedule. One where I have tasks like I like it, but I allow myself grace and put my children first. This doesn't mean my tasks get done, it just means I take the time to care for my children in the midst of it. It is amazing how quickly John will go play if I stop what I am doing to see what he needs. Even though I know how to fix and balance, I usually end up getting mad more than balancing. I hope to get better!

  6. I'm sharing this around. I love it. I am okay at birthday cards and Project Life has fixed my picture/album limitations. But I suck at birthday parties and such. I'm always jealous of how good at them Cheri is. Every year, I plan to steal her traditions, but then I… forget?



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