Can we please name a truce within the elemental cuteness wars?

Before you get me, let me just say that I was “that teacher” and “that parent.” Did I put lucky money envelopes together for every student in my preschool class? Yes. Do I have “It’s Crunch Time! You’ve Got This” state testing slip and small candy bars included? Yes, yes I have I love Pinterest, but I fell victim to its siren song. And so I call for an end to the elemental cuteness wars (aka the endless demands – both unwritten and explicit – for moms and teachers to create adorable projects, treats, goodie bags, and the like). Here’s why.

It raises unrealistic expectations.

As women, I think sometimes we are our own worst enemies. I feel like there’s an element of one-upmanship here. And yes, I specifically call women. I don’t want to be gender normative (or imply that this never applies to men), but I think it’s important to recognize that this is primarily an issue for mothers and teachers. We’re the ones who tend to fall into this trap of thinking that Pinterest-worthy boards or creating the best Crazy Hair Day are things we should be doing as teachers and as moms of school-aged kids. It’s just not true and only serves to complement what’s already on our crowded plates. It’s not sustainable, it’s competitive and it’s not fair to us.

It’s not fair to our children either. We set them up to expect Pinterest perfection. I always worry about teens having these big “offers” and sweet 16 parties because what will they expect for their weddings? It’s the same idea. You get so many “first day of school” survival kits (Pencils! Band-aids! Adorable poem!) and start anticipating them. Not only that, but I worry about our kids growing up and think they need to do all of this (but bigger and better) for their own kids to be good parents. And that’s just not the case.

It’s not really for the kids.

Part of it feels performative. Yes, I said so. And I said it about myself too. Because, to be honest, the reason I do a lot of these projects is because I like the attention – especially when people tell me how creative and smart I am. And if that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be posting pictures on social media. And I wouldn’t go back and pin my daughter’s pom pom placement to the valentines that are supposed to be from her. But I do.

I also know that most kids don’t care. They like the Spiderman valentines from the store as well as the Olive You valentines that I spent three hours cutting, coloring and punching out tiny hearts. There are a few exceptions. I have former students who kept all of my notes, but I happen to think my words mattered more than the fact that they were “handstamped by Kimmie.” For the most part, all the cute things I made for my students and my kids’ classes ended up in the trash. I know because I watched them do it (couldn’t even wait for them to get home – it didn’t matter that much).

Pinterest itself is not the problem.

I really enjoy Pinterest. I cook almost exclusively with Pinterest recipes and I love themed birthday parties. Do not believe me? The pictures in this article are mine. (Yes, I’m a massive hypocrite, but I’m trying here.) And I already know that people will tell me that Pinterest projects bring them joy. That’s fine. But if you’re anything like me, it’s a slippery slope. I know that when I do something I don’t have the time or energy to do, joy quickly turns to anxiety and stress.

I’m not saying you need to ditch your Throw Kindness Like Confetti classroom door decoration or that you can never make Hershey’s Kisses acorns for your child’s class again, but let’s put some guardrails around this type of stuff. I know the argument: leave people alone. Let them do whatever they want in their own classrooms/home. It does not affect you. But the truth is that it affects other people. It’s really hard not to be the only teacher who doesn’t make the elf, or the only mother who doesn’t send in an elaborate goblin trap. This ceasefire will only work if we all pull together.

Cuteness, by and large, doesn’t matter that much.

I think we can all agree that smart moms don’t make better moms. Teachers with themed classrooms are not better teachers. What makes a good parent when it comes to their child’s education is commitment, advocacy, and being part of their education team (and that’s different for different people). The best teachers are caring and committed to providing their students with the best possible learning experience. Cute can be fun, but when it comes to evaluating your effectiveness, it just doesn’t matter.

Remember how I said this mostly affects women? Dare I say this is patriarchy trying to distract us from what really matters? If they’ve got us busy making churro cupcakes, we might not be demanding paid vacations, affordable childcare, or professional salaries for teachers. I understand these are big things, and in a world where so much is out of our control, it feels like we can plant tiny succulents for 30 kids. But when we can collectively agree to protect our time and dismiss the guilt, we have a lot more energy for what really matters.

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Also read Dear Parents, Common Core Math isn’t out to get you, and here’s why.

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