Are you with child? Recently squeezed one out? Today’s message was written just for you. Essentially, it comes from some future version of you, one that (obviously) you haven’t yet met or even imagined. It’s not the version of you that’s been madly tearing through What to Expect… books. It’s not the you who is working your boobs into blisters pumping stores of milk because you don’t want to formula-feed. It’s not even the you a year or two down the road, the one that’s going to sneak your kid in front of the TV despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ medieval guidelines for daily screen times.
As a general rule, I don’t give parenting advice. Seriously, you can scan my whole blog and not find a single piece of real parenting advice anywhere else. But as I was driving today from store to store to freaking store, looking for vanilla bean paste, I thought of you. I thought of how helpful it would be to tell you what none of those stupid baby books tell you. Some of those books even advise the opposite, but you must resist. You must walk away from the rainbow and listen to what I’m about to tell you: SET THE BAR LOW.
Do you know why I was driving around from store to store to freaking store, looking for vanilla bean paste, today? Because nobody told me from the get-go to SET THE BAR LOW. Starting with my daughter’s second birthday, I got into making these kind of fancy cakes for her. I even bought a bunch of Wilton supplies — cake pans in whimsical shapes and with sharp corners and so deep I could cut the from-scratch cakes into two layers. I’d fill the space between the layers with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream, with raspberry preserves, or custards with shavings of chocolate. I even bought a spinning platform, so I could make sure the frosting went on smooth as ice. Then I’d add sunbursts or florals in homemade buttercream frosting, using one of the tips from my 64 different cake tips. And as if that weren’t enough, I’d hand-sculpt fondant into whatever my daughter could imagine should be the theme.
This year my daughter requested a cookie-dough cake with cookie-dough frosting. What the hell did I expect?
It turns out cookie-dough cakes require specialty ingredients that require extra work, and once you make a Jurassic-f***ing-Park cake, there is no going back to Duncan Hines mixes. If this extended metaphor isn’t making itself readily apparent, let me reiterate: SET THE BAR LOW. Because whether it’s over-the-top birthday cakes or the 55-minute bedtime routine where you make up a new story each night or even that one day you finally cave to being “it” at the neighborhood party and give good chase that leaves the kids breathlessly gobsmacked, there is no going back. Only you can decide where to set the bar, my friend.
Don’t cut your kid’s sandwiches into animal shapes. Always leave the crusts intact. Don’t jig when they finally pee in the toilet. When winter hits, don’t build a giant snow fort with two rooms and a foyer, large enough for the whole family. Don’t invent dazzling plots with cliffhangers or kick-butt horse monikers like Monsieur Pizzaz Frutelage when your daughter asks you to play My Little Ponies. Don’t even play My Little Ponies.
Wherever you set the bar, that’s where your kid’s going to be looking for you next time. Set it low, and you’re good to go.