The other day I stood on aching feet in my kitchen whipping together toasted walnuts and cream cheese, sautéing apples with cinnamon and butter, and lovingly tucking it all with thick slices of munster cheese in the middle of fresh raisin bread to make the most awesome grilled cheese sandwiches ever made by a mother in the history of the world. Maybe next time I’ll use gruyere and add some arugula. See how well this is working in my mind? I’m probably singing and imagining strings of melted cheese while laughing, bubbly children give me hugs and beg for seconds. This pretend world is what gets me through most of my days. That and putting expensive things into imaginary shopping carts and wearing orthopedic insoles.
I call them in for dinner, wearing an apron and hope for all of humanity.
But The Royal Children stared at the sandwiches like I was asking them to eat kitty litter, scrunched up their noses in the most unattractive fashion, and ran off the opposite direction. I stood in the kitchen holding a plate of sandwiches and tired feet, practically begging them to take one tiny bite. That’s not how the Pottery Barn catalog makes it seem when peanut butter and jelly on white bread is shaped like an acorn and sliced grapes make the cutest little flowers. It’s just assumed that children will eat the things and parents won’t be left like fools holding cheese sticks and crying.
My offspring somehow believe they have the authority to pick out roasted broccoli, sleuth out chunks of zucchini, practically gag over sundried tomatoes, and don’t even set Brussels sprouts in front of them because they will FOREGO dessert, I tell you, because no child should be subjected to such food that promotes notions like health and vigor and stamina until Spanish class. If given knives, my children would stake them forcefully into the table, proclaiming a ban on all foods that don’t contain the words macaroni and cheese in that particular order (we see you grinding up that squash into a paste because it’s the same color as the cheese sauce, momma, but we are onto you, lady. We weren’t born yesterday)
It’s exhausting. Sometimes I just throw my hands in the air and call it Oatmeal Wednesday, even though that doesn’t even rhyme or sound cute like Taco Tuesday, which honestly takes too much work. So that makes me more depressed and I just sit down beside them while they suck down maple and brown sugar while I eat Pringles. Eat up, kiddos. I’m not in the mood to fight today. But the next day, I roll up my sleeves, my motherhood pin dangling preciously close to revocation, and I take another stab at a balanced meal only to face the wrath of Those Who Shall Not Eat Fresh Green Beans with Bacon. For the love, guys. It’s got shallots and bacon. You guys don’t know how good you have it.
I just want to say for the record that I grew up in a house with two working parents. There wasn’t an option to say “no thanks” to casserole of unknown origin, or shake-and-bake, or yet another night of veg-all. We just ate it, and got through it like homework, and mom wouldn’t dream of us turning up our noses no matter how bland it was.
So the other day I just had it. I told my daughter when she refused to eat peas that children in Haiti are forced to eat mud cakes to fill up the aching in their stomachs, and I worked for an hour on dinner, and they can at least have the decency to eat it because they are not spoiled rotten brats, and by gosh they had better learn to be grateful, and I may or may not have said after a long-winded soliloquy about respect for parents and all things holy and the glory of roasted beets that they better eat their damn food.
That night, I felt bad I yelled. I sat on my daughter’s bed and apologized for the harsh words. For losing my temper. For sounding so mean. “Even moms are human,” I said as I kissed her beautiful cheeks (the same cheeks that rarely house broccoli, but I digress). She looked at me with her big blue eyes and said it was okay, and she forgave me a hundred times.
The next morning, I sat bowls of Cheerios with bananas in front of them. My son said he didn’t want Cheerios for breakfast. “Just eat them,” my daughter said to him, looking at me with a slight tinge of fear radiating from her peripheral vision. Success. Even if it’s only for a morning. I smiled as I poured my coffee.
I’ll take it.