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Blank Spot on the Fridge

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
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photo by JA Kemp
Dear Miriam,
 
This past December, I got some disgustingly cute holiday photo cards from friends with little kids. I haven't even had time to start on the scrapbook a relative got me for my son (who just turned 1!), much less create a family photo montage and then mail it to all the people I know. Now that it's February, though, I have a little more free time, and every time I see the cards on my fridge, I feel a little twang of regret. Is it too late to send a card? Should I send an email instead? Should I copy my friend's Facebook post that said, "When you see a blank spot on your fridge, just picture me, exhausted, with my messy daughter running around the living room and my husband at work..." Or, should I just start planning now for December?
 
Signed,
Blank Spot on the Fridge
 

Dear Blank,

I, too, have some disgustingly cute cards decorating my fridge. But each time I see them, rather than feel regret, I feel awe for my friends who have their acts together enough to do such a thing. Then I remember all the ways in which I am successful: I took a shower today. My kids are both wearing clean clothes. I slipped on the ice but didn't break any bones or phones. I left the house today with my keys AND my wallet. Notice that, "I made an adorable photo collage," is not on this list, nor is it likely to be anytime soon. A friend with one kid recently came over to my house, and when I apologized for the inevitable mess, she said, "I have lower standards now that I have one kid. Two kids means you can have really low standards." This was not meant — or taken — offensively, but was instead one of the most assuring things I've heard in a long time.

Sure, some of your friends sent out awesome cards, but you don't know what they didn't get done in order to do that. You don't know how much sleep they sacrificed or what a pain it actually was for them. (Friends reading this who found the whole task a delight: I don't want to hear it.) As with all things in life and parenthood and everything else, we all have different priorities. You can't second guess your own or your friends', or rationalize or scrutinize or judge. 

Nonetheless, you're looking at these cards every day and feeling bad, so it's definitely time to do something about it. Given that you have some more free time in February, which is obviously a cause in itself for celebration, you need to find a way that's true to you to send some greetings out. One option is to consider if there are any upcoming milestones in your family. You could send out a picture of a birthday or anniversary celebration. Given the misery of this winter, you could wait another month and pose your kid with a flower or something, then send out a card wishing everyone a happy spring. Though I don't want you to lose your momentum, you could also wait until September and send out a card in time for Rosh Hashanah. Even non-Jews would understand that this is comparable to the Christmas/secular New Year's cards that they sent out.

You could also certainly go the email route. I recently got an email "newsletter" from my uncle about all the happenings in his family unconnected to a particular season or occasion. Sometimes it's just nice to know what's happening in the lives of the people that you love. I would argue that it's better to share what you want to share than not to just because you missed the traditionally appointed time to do such a thing. You could make a photo collage that mimics the ones you've received in the mail and include just the image in the body of the email (though I tend to think that if I'm getting an email, there are no space restrictions, and some more words would be nice). Even if you write a couple of paragraphs about what your family has been up to and attach a picture, it will definitely take less time than gathering snail mail addresses and putting cards in envelopes. 

Your friend's tongue-in-cheek Facebook post is pretty funny. If you were going to echo it, though, December would have been the better time. The thought that you are so far behind that you're just apologizing for the lack of a card at the holidays seems more desperate than either a late card/email or no communication at all. Whatever you do, own it, make it a new family tradition, celebrate getting through another exhausting month and enjoy looking through pictures of your kid to find the very best ones to share. Don't feel the need to conform or apologize. The uniqueness of each of our families is something we can and should celebrate year round.

Be well,
Miriam

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