The Field Day Fallacy & Caterpillar Conundrum—Learning to Forgive How Much Our Parents “Sucked”

Yes, The Spawn is really BAT-THOR.

Yes, The Spawn is really BAT-THOR.

By. Kristen Lamb

When we are little kids, we all have this fantasy of what we will one day be like as parents. Like, we will never tell our kids that they can’t eat pizza every meal and we’ll let them stay up as late as they want to and watch rated R movies. It was so easy to be critical of my mom and dad, namely since my biggest goal as a child was “not being bored.” Then I grew up (technically) and suddenly there were things like JOBS, BILLS, ERRANDS, and now I wonder how my parents managed to keep us alive did what they did AT ALL.

I recall thinking how uncool my parents were that they didn’t want to stay in the pool all day. What was with that “yard work” stuff?  I just KNEW my parents would be far less stressed if they could embrace the Zen of the Slip & Slide.

Then I became a parent…

*head desk*


I remember being mortified when my mom would come get me at school. She was always in work clothes and never looked like the perfectly coiffed stay-at-home moms who came for my friends.

Dad picked me up in a work truck, not a Volvo. My brother and I would ride in the back, down the highway, amusing ourselves among the lumber and tools by tossing soda cans out the back and watching them bounce down the freeway (until we got a sound swatting on the side of I-20).


School projects were a particular nightmare. My fifth grade teacher was a sadist who hated me no matter how hard I tried to please her.


One time we had to make a volcano that erupted using baking soda. My parents were not only busy running a business, but they believed I needed to do my own projects, that it was good for my “character”…(code for “We have NO time for this, kid. You’re on your own!).

I recall my cute little lump of dirt I’d concocted from backyard mud and painted, how proud of it I was…until I saw the other kids’ projects.

One boy had this massive volcano that had to be carried in by adults. It was intricately painted, complete with little ferns and trees and a small village at the base of the mountain to be destroyed upon eruption.

I wanted to die.

I was up against THIS kid.

I was up against THIS kid.

Image via About.Com Chemistry’s Science Fair Volcano. If only my parents had the Internet.


Another project involved collecting insects local to the area, anesthetizing them with cotton balls of something that’s probably now illegal, then gluing them on a display of nails.

My little brother and I scoured for days searching for bugs, and, after days of work, all we had to show was a Folger’s can full of dead doodlebugs, some fire ants and a cricket or two…all of which had pretty much disintegrated to dust by the time my project was due.

My parents weren’t about to let a 6 and 10 year old loose with Superglue and NAILS. I settled for a shoebox and Scotch tape.

The other kids? They had these beautiful wooden displays of all kinds of colorful beetles and butterflies, perfectly preserved and each positioned beautifully on a display board. I was 26 years old before I realized the other kids’ parents had likely just ordered the bug displays from the local university’s Entomology Department.


I remember feeling like such a failure, and Mrs. E didn’t help. She’d sneer down her nose at me like I hadn’t tried. The others all got A+++++ and I counted myself lucky to pass. The other kids’ projects were displayed in the cafeteria because they were “true representatives of a fifth-grader’s ingenuity and talent.”

All I had to offer was a pile of painted mud and a shoebox of crispy bugs. My projects were left in the “Hall of Shame” (back in the classroom).


So here it is, almost thirty years later. My husband and I work super long days with our fledgling business, as I mentioned on my author blog post about the Author CEO.

Granted, what I failed to mention in that post is my “work” days are so long not because I am some Author Gordon Gekko, rather because I’m interrupted with 47 sword fights a day (at least Spawn lets me wear the Captain America mask), 22 tickle fights, and more than a few races through the house as I sing the “Baby Shark” song and hunt The Spawn down while he squeals and tries to hide.

Hubby and I are like Sheldon (Hubby) and a Sheldon-Howard-Penny (Me) from Big Bang Theory had a child.


“Work” includes stopping to help The Spawn through a level of Star Wars Angry Birds and refilling his sippy-cup every 20 minutes. It’s hard, and tiring. It makes long “work” days, but we love it. We love being a entrepreneurs so we can be home with The Spawn. We love that we made the decision to sacrifice so Daddy could be home. My husband takes him to the park so they can fight with light sabers and I can write.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.18.48 AM

Spawn uses “The Force” to help me with revisions.

Then this morning…


Hubby brings The Spawn to nursery school.

TEACHER: “Where is the sunscreen for Field Day and the $5 for pizza money?”


Hubby has been sleeping on the ground eating MREs for almost three weeks (Air Force Stuff) and I’ve been on the road speaking. We were all impressed our child was still ALIVE and wearing MATCHING clothes.

…and now we missed FIELD DAY???? Sigh. This reminds me of…


Last month, the nursery school The Spawn attends a few hours a day sent home a request that we provide a butterfly or caterpillar costume. While dressing my son as a butterfly held great promise, namely embarrassing pictures that could help ensure he wouldn’t date until after he’s thirty, we were going to try caterpillar. Yet, like my parents, we have little money and time and far less creativity.


I never thought I would be THAT mom, the one who never wears makeup and lives in work clothes. I thought I’d be more Martha Stewart-ish. I’d drive a Saab and have perfect hair and wear clothes from Talbots…not the same yoga pants I wore through ten months of pregnancy and my favorite Green Lantern shirt.

Need some adverbs taken out?

My “work” clothes.


At Valentines, the other moms had cute hand-decorated bags full of thoughtful items for my son’s class like pencils, stickers and Cookie Monster socks. Spawn? He had a bag of pre-made Valentines.

Easter? The other kids brought intricate little baskets and eggs. My son? A bag of plastic eggs already sealed and stuffed with candy.


We’ve been though this. I feel the pressure. I’ve seen the handmade costumes, but I just didn’t have it. I couldn’t battle Thor and be hit with lightning 572 times a day while writing and picking cereal off every surface of my home…AND make a costume. I also couldn’t afford a fancy caterpillar costume off-line.


And there was the added challenge that Spawn refuses to wear anything that doesn’t have Thor, Batman or Star Wars on it. He would scream and strip, (which my husband and I counted as parental WINNING, but we’re warped).

We’d been though this with the 2011 Christmas play, the 2012 Spring Play and the 2012 Christmas play. Not only am I THAT mom, but I apparently I’m the mother of THAT kid.

***Note: The teachers love him and think he’s a joy. I was the only one feeling the pressure.

And Spawn TOTALLY rocks because he loves Star Wars, books and his mom and dad. His first words were “I love you” “please” and “thank you,” and that is proof we’ve done a lot of things right.



All things come full circle. It’s funny how life shows you things, how we see our parents differently when we’re suddenly in their shoes. I’m now proud of my lump of mud and my dried doodlebugs because I did those projects myself (okay, with help from my 6 year old brother).

One day, I hope The Spawn forgives me for keeping him home instead of hand-making a caterpillar costume. Apparently the State of Texas frowns on parents using duct tape on their kids, so I was all out of ideas.

There was NO way he would have keep anything but a Thor helmet on his head. Headband with antennae? *clutches sides laughing* My main concern was unless he was glued into this costume or was somehow made into a rare breed of caterpillar with R2-D2 in its markings, he would have stripped and ran.

Yes, “calling in sick” was the most logical choice.


But, you know what? I’d rather my son be an AWESOME nerd than some Stepford Craft Kid to help my ego. Yeah, his mom isn’t Martha Stewart, and his dad has to run to the closest convenience store for overpriced sunscreen and $5 cash. But, so what. One day….our boy will understand *laughs evilly*.

Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Feel free to follow her weekday blog or find her on Facebook and Twitter. Kristen is the C.E.O. of WANA International and the founder of the social site for creatives, WANATribe.

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