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I’m forbidden to decorate birthday cakes.

The sad story of the lifetime ban my family enacted twenty years ago started with my ambitious plans to make the perfect cake for Annemarie’s party. It ended with the birthday girl trying to console me as I sobbed on the kitchen floor.

(And this was pre-Pinterest; I shudder to think of what I would have been like with that kind of self-imposed pressure!)

Now that my children are young adults, here’s what they actually remember from their childhoods:

1)  Reading together every night as a family. To this day, they will rhapsodize about the books we read, the funny voices we used, and the way we tried to snuggle together on the couch even after they’d grown way too big.

2)  Taking early morning walks together in the summer. We all carried bags to pick up trash, and we drilled each other on the multiplication tables (through twenty) and periodic table of elements.

3)  Playing family games together. We got sillier and sillier until Dad ended up rolling on the floor gasping, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

My kids don’t remember A. Single. Birthday. Party.  (And it’ll probably take years of therapy before they do!)

As I wondered why they remember the three things they do, I realized that these three have several things in common:

  • We were relaxed.
  • We had no agenda, no schedule.
  • We spent a lot of the time smiling and laughing.
  • The main goal was simply being together.

The activities that cost me the least time, energy, and stress are the ones they remember the best.

Now please know that I’m neither protesting nor promoting Pinterest. My point is simply this:

Our kids could care less about Pinterest.

What they really want is

  • a relaxed mom.
  • a laughing mom.
  • a present mom.

I don’t see anything wrong with trying to pull off the perfect party.

If you can do both — present and perfect — my hat is off to you. Decorate that cake, and I’ll cheer from the sidelines.

But in those times when you can’t be both, remember the real gift your child hopes you’ll choose:

Present over perfect.

On their birthday and every day.


Prayer:  Lord, when I only have the time and/or energy to be present or to do things perfect, help me to choose present. Thank you for loving me with a love that is ever-present and always perfect.

Today’s Challenge: 

Do you know what your child’s favorite activities are with you and why?  If not, ask them: you might be in for a surprise!

When do you suspect that your child would rather have you present than “perfect”?   What would it take for you to choose present over perfect?


Gregory_Cheri_Photo_SquareMy bad mom friend and author of today’s challenge is Cheri Gregory. Cheri has been married to her college sweetheart for over a quarter-of-a-century and has two college-aged kids; she blogs about expectations, “baditude,” and hope at


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